In response to new laws designed to make New Hampshire the most trust-friendly state in the nation, the state's Circuit Court announced Tuesday the creation of a "trust docket" to handle the increasing number of complex trust cases involving significant assets and court resources.
The "trust docket" will be a specialized system within the Circuit Court Probate Division. It will take effect Jan. 1.
"The Circuit Court has been acutely aware of the need to make changes in response to the growing number of complicated trust cases that we are seeing in the probate division," said Judge David D. King, who is deputy administrative judge of the Circuit Court.
The new docket will allow the court to flag those cases that involve significant assets and multiple parties that likely will require extensive discovery and long trials that would benefit from being placed on the special docket and managed by a single judge, King said.
"It will help anyone who finds themselves...in the middle of litigation involving their trust — either as a trustee or a beneficiary — and they need to get it resolved so they can move on with their lives," said King, who previously served as administrative judge for the probate court.
Judge Gary R. Cassavechia will oversee the docket. Cassavechia has been on the probate bench since 1981 and presided over the well-known and lengthy Tamposi trust case.
He currently sits in the 7th Circuit Probate Division in Dover and also regularly presides as probate judge in Hillsborough County.
State lawmakers have passed laws since 2004 to modernize and liberalize the regulation of trusts and trust companies in an effort to make New Hampshire a mecca for those who want to set up trusts whether it be for tax purposes, estate planning or to maintain their privacy.
"It's a huge industry," King said.
King, who has sat on the probate bench for nearly 24 years, said wills prevailed in probate court until about 10 to 15 years ago.
"That was when estate planning lawyers really started to encourage trusts as a vehicle to manage the transfer of wealth from one generation to another with the original idea to have it pass outside probate court," King said.
Not all challenges to trusts will be transferred to the "trust docket," he said. Only especially complex or significant cases will be placed on the docket; the rest will remain in the probate division.
King estimated he initially will assign 10 to 15 cases to the docket and "see how it goes."