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One of the most essential elements to ensure a successful post-settlement outcome is the establishment and administration of an effective, comprehensive settlement trust fund or funds. 

Based on our experience with administering two environmental mitigation trusts funded with the money from the 2016 Volkswagen AG settlements, we believe there are three core skill areas that are vital to a trustee’s success.

  • Effective trust administration necessitates that litigants work closely with a trustee to design an ideal framework that will optimize the experience for the beneficiaries, while enhancing opportunities for the monies to achieve desired goals.
  • Complex settlement trusts should be designed with a focus on ensuring that settlement dollars flow quickly and easily to the beneficiaries, for the intended objectives of the trust.
  • Minimizing administrative costs is crucial to maximizing the eventual payouts to the beneficiaries. It is a best practice to establish a fixed cost structure for paying expenses, in that the trustee budgets for all costs as a fixed percentage of the assets in the trusts.

Today’s legal, regulatory and tax environment is complex.  The trustee must serve as a collaborative partner, and bridge the dialogue between court, the settlors and the beneficiaries.

Please see important disclosures at the end of the article.

This article reprint was published by Law360 in April 2021.

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