By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Probate Estate Administration Attorney

So far in this series I have introduced you to the child support judgment lien statute, running a child support judgement search, judgments entered in foreign jurisdictions, and non-probate transfers. In our final piece in this series I will discuss how the statute relates to distributions from a trust.

Distributions from Trust

N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.23b does not reference distributions in trust, whether testamentary or inter vivos, revocable or irrevocable. The statute makes only specific reference to executors and administrators. The statue does not use the term trustee. This ambiguity raises a question as to whether a trustee, prior to making a distribution from trust, must perform the same child support judgment search required of an executor prior to making a distribution from an estate.

While unclear, the answer may depend on how the trust was established. For example, where a decedent executes a will in which her estate is paid to a revocable living trust (which becomes irrevocable at her death), distributions from that trust can and probably should be viewed as an inheritance by the trust’s beneficiaries from the decedent. The trustee is acting in similar fashion to that of an executor when making these distributions from the trust to effect the decedent’s testamentary intent.

As additional support, the statute places the burden of performing child support judgment searches on “an executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate, an arbitrator, or any other person or entity if such person or entity is responsible for the distribution of net proceeds to a prevailable party or beneficiary” (emphasis added). The language “or any other person or entity” is important in this context because a trust is another entity that can carry out the testator’s dispositive intentions.

To discuss your NJ Probate Estate Administration, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.