Becoming a State Chartered Trust Company

Stephen Trefts, President

Stephen Trefts, President

After 27 years of serving the estate planning community in the Northwest, it is with great excitement that we announce that Northwest Trustee & Management Services is now a state chartered trust company. This step allows us to continue our company’s vision “to be recognized as the regional leader in personalized fiduciary service.” Northwest Trustee & Management Services, LLC, is one of the few independent non-bank trust companies in the Northwest. 

It has been an exciting journey since first expressed to my wife and three little girls many years ago. During this journey, over 300 estate planning attorneys and over 500 investment advisors have successfully utilized our firm in fiduciary roles as trustee, alternate trustee, personal representative, guardian, agent, attorney-in-fact, etc. We have earned this trust by consistently following our core values: integrity, professionalism, diligence, and compassion. 

Enhancing our fiduciary services

With the goal of better serving the estate planning community, we approached the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (“DFI”) to become regulated in the same manner as any other trust company or trust department. After validating our processes, procedures, financial strength, and comprehensive insurance, they granted Northwest Trustee & Management Services, LLC, the authority to act as a state chartered trust company. The state will now periodically examine our company, adding an additional layer of fiduciary professionalism that will ultimately benefit your clients.

While I have no immediate plans to retire, this achievement will enhance our business continuity, which is always an extremely important factor when clients are selecting a fiduciary. This step will assure you and your clients of the perpetual nature of our trust company with oversight by the DFI, as well as governance by a board of directors with at least two independent board members at all times. 

Taking advantage of favorable trust laws

The timing of this change also coincides perfectly with the recent change in Washington State trust laws regarding directed trustees and statutory trust advisors (which were codified in a new section, RCW 98A). Your clients desiring these fiduciary services are often individuals with higher net worth. Many desire an independent trust company with perpetual life to be named in some form of a directed trust (often which are multi-generational trusts). As a non-custodian trust company, we are perfectly placed to become the leader in directed trusts across the Northwest, as we have extensive experience in custom fiduciary solutions. To enhance our position, we have hired a leading estate planning attorney who was a primary drafter of the new law to create model language that addresses these new laws. This language is available to you; and, if you would like to incorporate it in your trust documents, please e-mail me at swtrefts@nwtrustee.com, and we will provide you an electronic version.

Furthermore, estate planning attorneys in Idaho and Oregon frequently desire to use our services. While we can still offer these services from our sites here in Washington, the Department of Financial Institutions reciprocity agreements between states will provide us an opportunity to apply for trust offices to be located in Idaho and/or Oregon. 

What will remain the same?

These changes will broaden the fiduciary services we provide, but they will not fundamentally change what has made our company successful. I want to highlight the three main reasons that attorneys have referred their clients to us for 27 years:

First, your clients desire an independent trustee. As a non-bank trustee, we will continue to retain the clients’ investment advisors, as we do not custody investment assets. We believe this team approach is the best way to serve your clients. Not being driven by “assets under management” keeps the focus of our business on your clients, not their assets.

The second reason that estate planning attorneys have sought us out is that we have a reputation for successfully working with complicated family dynamics. These could include family disagreements, defalcation by family members who have abused a position of trust, multiple marriages and children by prior marriages, or family members with physical, emotional, or mental disabilities that are often exacerbated by drug or alcohol abuse.

The final reason that estate planning attorneys seek us out is that their clients hold complex assets which need a collaborative and creative approach for management. Over the years, we have successfully managed: real estate with undivided interest owned by conflicted heirs, a mobile home park, land on Indian reservations, dilapidated apartment complexes needing complete renovation, an abandoned gas station with tanks still in the ground, extensive antique collections that included vintage farm equipment and turn of the century autos and motorcycles, bare land both held and developed for commercial purposes, residential property portfolios, timberland, and a wood carving of a cigar store Indian that sold for $50,000 at auction. We are currently working with a menagerie that includes zebras, camels, and miniature zebra cattle. The stories could fill volumes.

I have always appreciated the opportunity to work with the estate planning community throughout the Northwest. By achieving the designation of a state chartered trust company, and with our new capabilities under the recently enacted directed trust laws, we are even better equipped to provide your clients with creative solutions to their complex fiduciary needs.