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Discretionary Distribution Standards: Balancing Duty and Need



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Discretionary Standards:
Matching Grantor Intent to Trustee Action

Presented by:     Cynthia D.M. Brown, Esq.

This presentation will familiarize you with the most common distribution standards and provide insight as to their application by trustees.  It will include case studies and hypotheticals throughout to assist participants in understanding a trustee’s application of the same.  The presentation will include:

    • Some ideas for initial conversations with clients and how to pick the right trustee;
    • An analysis of typical distribution standards, such as the ascertainable standard, unascertainable standards, absolute discretion, and direction;
    • A discussion of the various methods for communicating grantor intent;
    • An analysis of how a trustee typically determines the grantor’s intent from the deed of trust and ancillary documents;
    • How to assess beneficiary need through (1) consideration of their other resources and (2) consideration of the beneficiary’s standard of living;
    • A behind the scenes look at how a trustee analyzes and processes a distribution request;
    • A look at the standard of review applicable to both the judiciary and regulatory authorities; and
    • Case studies illustrating the handling of difficult distribution requests.


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Cynthia D. M. Brown is the President of Commonwealth Trust Company and a member of its Board of Directors. Cindy has more than fifteen years of experience in the areas of trust administration, estate planning and tax. Her responsibilities include business development as well as oversight of trust administration, trust operations and compliance. In addition, Cindy is an active member of the Delaware State Bar Association Trust Act Committee, which drafts annual revisions to the Delaware Code.
Prior to joining CTC, Cindy worked at a large Philadelphia law firm, where, among other things, she administered estates and trusts, drafted sophisticated estate planning documents, prepared and reviewed Federal and State death tax returns, and prepared and reviewed fiduciary accountings. Cindy’s experience also includes over eight years as an estate and trust paralegal with both large Philadelphia law firms and a local private practice in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. In law school, Cindy served as the Blue Book Editor of the Widener Law Review and received several achievement awards in the area of Federal Estate and Gift Taxation and Planning. Cindy is active in many professional organizations and community leadership and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Delaware CarePlan, Inc. and the Delaware Bankers Association.
She can be contacted at: cbrown@comtrst.com, (302) 658-7214, Ext 177



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