Trustees and Other Fiduciaries
At Daehnke Cruz Law Group we work closely with trustees and other fiduciaries, providing them with advice on how to minimize liabilities that arise because of the passing of contaminated properties (toxic succession) to heirs, beneficiaries or business partners at death. We know that when toxic succession issues are ignored, trustees may find themselves facing otherwise unnecessary disputes that drain trust resources, and may find themselves facing personal accusations of mismanagement regarding the trust assets and the contaminated property. If the trustee is also a beneficiary of the trust, that trustee may face personal liability above and beyond the assets of the trust.
Independent trustees – those with no personal financial interest in the distributed assets – are typically protected by law from government-mandated environmental cleanup liabilities. However, the trust’s assets do not receive these protections. This means that trust assets are often the target of government and third party environmental cleanup litigation, and toxic tort lawsuits, as well as environmental cleanup litigation between and among the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.
Moreover, even with statutory protections for certain cleanup liabilities, independent trustees might still be named personally in litigation that ensues, including potential claims that contaminated assets have been mismanaged. Fiduciaries can also be liable if they run afoul of the strict requirements for statutory protections, and may additionally have to fight off litigation once an estate is distributed, the estate assets have been depleted, or the trust has otherwise been terminated. These lawsuits may even occur several years, or even decades, after a trustee has finished serving her fiduciary role.
At Daehnke Cruz Law Group, we show trustees how to recognize potential toxic succession issues, and how to protect themselves - and the trust assets - from liability when these environmental contamination issues arise. This includes securing pollution legal liability or environmental cleanup insurance, where applicable, and drafting language for trust documents which provides clear authority, and appropriate protections, for trustees when dealing with contamination issues.