Oakland, MD asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Maryland

Q: In Maryland, can a trust contain the power/authority to hold $150,000 from the beneficiaries indefinitely?

150,000 is to provide funding to place flowers on three gravesites two times each year.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: You probably ought to pay someone to review the actual trust, because some trust purposes can be undercut by the beneficiaries due to changes circumstances, but there is nothing fundamentally problematic with a trust holding property perpetually. A grant of property must resolve title within 21 years of a life in being, but corporations, trusts, and other unnatural persons can be perpetual. Whether the trust purpose is disproportionate or can be amended, because $150,000 is way more than enough to buy flowers twice a year seems to be an issue worth exploring.

Cedulie Renee Laumann
Cedulie Renee Laumann
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crownsville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: A trust can usually be set up for any purpose the person making the trust (called a Grantor or Settlor) desires, with any kind of stipulations the Grantor deems appropriate in their own eyes. If the Grantor wanted to reserve $1 million to feed pigeons at a local park, they could usually do so, even if that seems atypical or even excessive spending.

Sometimes, however, a Trust gives the Trustee authority to make decisions and in that case the Trustee's decisions should be reasonable in light of all the circumstances. So if a Grantor's trust said "I direct my Trustee to set aside enough money to feed pigeons at the local park" and the Trustee decided to set aside $1,000,000 when one could comfortably accomplish the goal for $5,000, that kind of atypical / disproportionate spending may well breach of the Trustee's fiduciary obligations.

Another attorney mentioned 21 years of lives in being (i.e., 21 years after people living at the creation of the trust die) as the general timeframe for a trust to disburse, which stems from ancient law but in Maryland anyone making a trust can now waive the 21 year rule.

That being said, an attorney can't realistically analyze whether a Trustee under a particular trust is doing what they need to do without looking at the Trust itself.

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