Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Unpleasant Task, Finished

There's a reason I hate the annual trust filing. Actually, this year there were several.

Start with locating all the paperwork. Now normally that's only fairly odious. All the bank statements that come in are put into the filing box, even though they're only filed about twice a year, those being tax time and trust filing time. At least they don't get lost, although there have been years where they wind up in the wrong file folder, generally the one holding my personal bank statements. Then the receipts are put back in the checkbook at the time purchases are made, so they're easy to keep track of. And since the checks are in the carbon-copy form, it's easy to go through and see that the reason #xxxx is missing is that it was voided.

Finally there are the proofs of checks being properly cashed. This means I go online to the credit union and print out the copy they provide of each check that's gone through. It had previously been explained to me that only an official printout of both front and back of each check would do for the filing. In the early years there was a fee for this. After the account became accessible online, I could access the info and print my own for free. This year I was closing out the account, so I made sure to do that before closing, after all the checks had cleared.

That's where I noticed the first problem.

Two of the checks were written to Target. Target made a change in how they clear checks. They now clear them electronically, from the store. No hard copy of the check goes to the credit union. Their only record is the store name, amount, and "electronically cleared." Since Target doesn't do this at the cash register at the time of purchase, no hard copy of the check gets returned to me, either.


Well, I have no alternative but sending along a copy of both the receipt and the carbon of the check, with an explanation, and hope it serves.

That points out the second locating-paperwork problem. I keep that little green checkbook in one of two places. The first is a place it's kept whole not in use. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is. The second is in my pocketbook when I need to use it. It wasn't in either spot.

It wasn't in the file box either. Or mixed in with the stacks of paperwork on the dining room table. Or the lamp table by my chair. Paul hadn't seen it. It wasn't in any of the places adjacent to its usual holding spot where I might have absent-mindedly put it. I checked my memory of where I'd last seen it, which was easy: I'd written the last check to Jordan for the cash balance of the account minus the final administrative fee for the trust filing. I hadn't even needed to take it along to the credit union to close the account, using the most recent statement and my ID to accomplish that.

Oh dear, next problem: I also didn't have the certified check I'd had them make out for that fee, or that last statement either. I distinctly recall putting those in a "safe spot". But which one?

Since I hadn't yet gone through every scrap of paper and every file folder in the files box, I decided to do that first: find out just exactly the scope of the problem. Along the way about 5 pounds of paper made it into the recycle bin. I decided, for example, that I no longer need the last five years of insurance policies for the house and car and the statements attached to them. The result is everything is now neatly filed for tax time, all of the trust bank statements were accounted for, and the certified check for the filing fee was located. I had everything I needed but that checkbook.

There was only one place I'd overlooked, because it couldn't possible be there. So of course, it was.


OK, first, check out those two Target checks. Yep, carbon copies in the book. Yep, receipts in the book.


The receipt from the purchase nearly a year ago had faded so badly about the only legible thing on it was the bullseye logo for Target. And that's as good as it's ever going to get.


Now the real fun begins. Head to the computer, pull up last year's filing, change dates, change numbers, keep the template, save as new. Of course it's never that simple. Never has been. There's always a math error. It never balances to the penny. Assets on hand last year, plus interest, minus administrative expenses, minus distributions to beneficiaries, need to compare exactly to current assets on hand. Luckily this year, that's zero, making at least that little bit simpler.

Part of the fun is that the trust year is not the same as the bank statement dates, so they need to be combed through to figure out which figures go in this report and which are for the previous or future year. Year-to-date figures will be wrong. Each entry needs to be tallied. I always make at least one mistake by the time the first balance is taken. Sometimes more.

That's even more aggravating. There's nothing quite like finding an error, thinking you've solved the problem, and finding out there's yet another one.

This year I finally decided to put everything on a spreadsheet, at least for the interest. There was interest on the savings account and on each of the 4 CDs which were held for some part of the year. Each of those, further, needed to be noted in another part of the trust for the exact amount of interest earned and a justification entered for why it didn't earn at least 2%.

Have you tried to get 2% this last year on any secure short-term investment? Just saying.

This year, after all the figures were accounted for, additions and subtractions made, and everything was balanced, the result was...

A penny off!


Go back and recheck every figure, making sure it was entered correctly. Re-add all the columns, twice. There's a whole lot of paper shuffling, a whole lot of where-exactly-did-I-get-that-number? involved in that process. It has to be done in the morning, since that's when my math brain is at its most functional. (Don't ask me to do math at night! Ever!) After all that is done, I finally come to the last set of figures, the administrative expenses. Only four numbers, two ending in zeros, and I can see instantly on the form that 5 + 2 do not equal 8. All that double-checking was unnecessary, had I just looked there first. But, hey, at least I know there aren't any other mistakes.

All that's left now is making copies of what needs sending, getting my signature notarized Monday morning, and taking the whole thing to the post office after that.

And waiting. Waiting to find out the consequences of inadequate proof of expenses. Waiting through whatever number of years until I can make 4" more space in my file box after throwing out all the paperwork.

Oh yeah, and waiting to see those pictures from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

And, hey, anybody out there thinking of setting up a trust and making me the trustee? Go find somebody else!

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