Trust Fund Recovery Penalty 

IRC Section 6672

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in United States of America v. Charles I. Williams, DDS, as Executor of Mary C. Williams, at Case No. 20-10433 filed July 6, 2021 that Charles I. Williams, acted “willfully” within the meaning of the statute and that the district court’s ruling indicating the same was affirmed. As such, Mr. Williams was held personally liable for the trust fund recovery penalties under section 6672(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. Mr. Williams owned and operated several dentistry practices. After not paying employment taxes, the government pursued collections. The central issue in the case was whether Williams acted willfully to allow for personal liability under the statute. Personal liability against responsible persons can attach under the statute when the person is a responsible person who willfully fails to turn over the withheld taxes. Willfulness requires only a voluntary, conscious, and intentional act, not a bad motive or evil intent. The Court explained that evidence showed that the responsible person had knowledge of payments to other creditors after he was aware of the failure to pay withholding tax is sufficient to show willfulness. Mr. Williams had argued that he was in a mental fog and could not have willfully spurned his tax obligations. Further he argued that he had turned over his businesses’ tax duties to his bookkeeper and another individual. The Court ruled that he was in fact willful because he knew of the unpaid payroll taxes and yet decided to pay private creditors instead of the IRS. 

Changes to the Colorado Probate Code

H.B. 14-1322: Changes to the Colorado Probate Code

The Colorado General Assembly recently passed several changes to the Colorado Probate Code, which became effective August 6 of this year. In particular, House Bill 14-1322 made changes to the administration of revocable trusts. These changes include the expansion of default rules governing trust revocation and the enumeration of powers and duties afforded to certain fiduciaries acting under the terms of the trust.  

Before House Bill 14-1322, a trust could be revoked by any method expressing the “clear and convincing” intent of the trust creator (“settlor”) to revoke the trust, or if a method was expressly mentioned in the trust, revocation could be accomplished by such a method. Clear and convincing intent also included any revocation in a later drafted will or codicil that expressly referred to the revocable trust or which specifically devised property that would have otherwise passed through the trust. 

With the enactment of House Bill 14-1322, the code now requires settlors to use specific language to signal that a method of revocation is meant to be exclusive. More specifically, a trust must include the terms “sole” or “only” when referring to a method of revocation, otherwise the trust may be revoked by any other method manifesting “clear and convincing” evidence of the settlor’s intent to revoke. This change to the revocation procedure provides for a slightly higher burden on the settlor who wishes to specify an exclusive method of revocation, but also reaffirms the importance of the settlor’s intent when determining whether or not revocation is valid.

House Bill 14-1322 also adopts the statutory concepts of “trust advisors” and “directed trustees” and adds a non-exhaustive list of duties and powers applicable to directed trustees and trust advisors. A directed trustee is a person who is named in the trust as trustee, but whose actions are subject to the direction of a named fiduciary who is in charge of investment decisions on behalf of the trust. Often this named fiduciary is a trust advisor. The trust advisor will assist in the management and investment of trust property. The bill also defines the term “excluded trustees.” An excluded trustee is simply a directed trustee who, under the terms of the trust, must follow the direction of a trust advisor whereas some directed trustees have discretion over whether or not to follow the advice of the trust advisor.  

Before this Bill was passed, the Colorado Probate Code provided a set of specific and general powers in Title 15, Article 1, Part 8 of the Colorado Probate Code, which applied to all persons acting in a fiduciary capacity and which remains applicable after House Bill 14-1322. The provisions in House Bill 14-1322 allow a settlor to establish a trustee-beneficiary relationship with trust advisors, affording the trust advisor the ability to exercise the powers generally afforded to trustees and other fiduciaries. House Bill 14-1322 also imposes particular duties on trust advisors. For example, the bill explicitly states that the decisions of a trust advisor are subject to the Colorado “Uniform Prudent Investor Act.” The Bill also creates reciprocal duties among the trustee and trustee advisor, which require each to keep the other informed about the administration of the trust.

Overall, House Bill 14-1322 made several changes to the Colorado Probate Code, but for the most part they seem to clarify administrative procedures and fiduciary duties of individuals acting under a trust. If you have any questions about how these changes might affect your estate planning documents, please feel free to contact our office.