Last month we did a blog post about nominating your executors and agents when you have multiple family members to choose from. It can be a delicate decision that may not only have far reaching ramifications in the administration of your estate but may also cause hurt feelings when your decisions come to light.
Recently I have reviewed multiple trusts and powers of attorney for older clients. These trusts were drafted decades ago and aside from some obvious changes in the law and estate taxes which needed to be addressed, one red flag kept popping out at me: multiple children, relatives or friends nominated to act jointly as Trustee and/or Agent of the estate plan. As an estate planner this is concerning to me for many reasons, most importantly because in many cases this opens your estate up to the possibility of litigation or contest.
Imagine a family shortly after a loved one has become incapacitated or passed away: emotions are running high, financial stress may be present and questions about next steps are abundant. What else is present? The inescapable fact that everyone processes death and the emotions surrounding it differently.
Recently I met two sisters struggling to administer their late mother’s trust. One sister was living on the east coast and wanted to sell the family home and use the funds to help her daughter pay for college. Going through her mother’s things was too painful and she just wanted to liquidate and move on. The other sister was still local, had young children, and wanted to keep the home and antique furniture in the family so her children would have a piece of their grandmother’s history. They were so diametrically opposed about how to proceed that no suggestions I made about a buy-out or monthly payments were received well. I basically had to tell them that their options were to come to an agreement or sue each other.
I can’t imagine their mother imagined this being a possible outcome when she nominated her daughters as co-Trustees. Unfortunately this outcome is all too common. Before you nominate multiple Trustees or Agents, sit down with a trusted and experienced estate planner and consider all of your options. As mentioned in the previous post, a trust protector is a great option when you’re having a hard time deciding who to nominate. Remember that making the hard decisions now will make your family’s experience administering your estate so much easier.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.