We like to think of our families, particularly our children, as centered individuals who understand the value of maintaining important family relationships. If you don’t think your family fits into this blissful picture, don’t take it to heart. Family dynamics can be challenging, and relationships can be fragile. This is especially true when there are difficult circumstances.
It’s not uncommon to have family members struggling with drug dependency, divorce, mental health, poor spending habits, or lack of financial independence. The list is inexhaustible. Sometimes there are family members who cannot get along. However, rather than sidestepping these sensitive issues, they should be addressed.
These emotionally consuming issues can become roadblocks when it comes to designing your estate plan. So much so that many take the position, “I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll let my kids handle it when I’m gone.” Unfortunately, rather than bringing families together during times of crisis, this approach can have the opposite effect. It can pit one family member against another.
It is common for families to name one or two of their children to act as trustee or co-trustees and personal representatives. This works well in families where children get along, there are no special circumstances, and your estate is straightforward. In these situations, you may feel confident your children can handle your estate the way you intend.
In our visits with clients, we often hear that they don’t want to burden their children. However, making them trustees when there are difficult circumstances may do just that–create a burden. Luckily, the situation can be remedied by using an independent trustee when designing your family trust. Upon your death, as trustee, they handle all distributions from the trust and assist in the sale of assets when needed. Their responsibility is to handle your estate the way you want. They deal with your family in a kind and understanding way, but they are also diplomatic. They can make hard decisions, something that may be hard for a family member who wants to take care of others or could be easily manipulated.
Avoiding conflicts of interest is critical when it comes to finding an outside trustee. You want things handled your way, not the bank or brokerage firm’s way. When researching an outside trustee, we recommend finding one that is independent. This means he or she is not affiliated with a large company.
Let us help you maintain healthy family relationships. If you think you may need the service of an independent trustee, give us a call. We can share our research and advise you on a trustee that may work well with your family.