Tag Archives: Trustee

3 tips when making estate planning decisions

I came across this blog that was written by Julie Ann Garber, J.D. last year.  It had such good information that I decided to re-post and share it with you.

Many people struggle with all of the decisions that they have to make when putting together their estate plan: Who should get what? When should they get it? Who shouldn’t get anything? Who should be the executor? Who should be the trustee?

All of these decisions can be overwhelming, even for someone who has what is considered a “normal” family, but they don’t have to be.  In the wise words of Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, it’s your decision.

If you’re stressed out about how to plan your estate, then don’t despair.  Here are three tips for making your estate plan your way:

Tip #1 – Don’t be afraid to disinherit someone.  It’s your money, so you can choose to leave it, or not leave it, to whomever you want. But beware – being bullied into making your estate plan a certain way by a certain individual and not the way you really want it (for instance, leaving everything to one child to the exclusion of others at the insistence of that one child) will result in family discord.  If you really want to disinherit someone, then that’s your prerogative, but if someone bullies you into disinheriting someone else, then in extreme cases this could amount to “undue influence” and lead to an ugly will or trust contest. If you truly want to disinherit someone, then work closely with your estate planning attorney to insure that not only will your final wishes be carried out, but your plan will be bullet proof from challenges.

Tip #2 – Choose your executor and trustee wisely.  Here are the traits you should look for in your executor and trustee:  loyal, fair, practical, trustworthy, organized and tough.  If you choose a person who has most of these traits, then your final wishes will be fulfilled, but if you choose a person who has only one or two of these traits, then your final wishes will take a back seat to their own agenda.  Better yet, choose a corporate trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to put these important jobs in the hands of professionals.  Otherwise it may be way too easy for Uncle Bob to skim some off of the top or for your loved ones to convince Uncle Bob to disregard your wishes.

Tip #3 – Listen to your estate planning attorney.  While a good estate planning attorney will listen intently so that he or she can learn about your greatest concerns and challenges when it comes to planning your estate, you should also listen to your estate planning attorney because he or she can offer some good advice and solutions to ease those concerns and overcome the challenges. And while sometimes what your estate planning attorney says may not be what you want to hear, your attorney’s advice, which comes from years of experience in similar situations, may very well head off a family feud or a will or trust contest.

For more information about estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

When Someone Dies

Whether it is expected, or whether it is not, the list of things to do when someone dies can be overwhelming.   Perhaps even more overwhelming is understanding the rules and regulations that manage the disposition of the body and the management of the deceased’s financial affairs.

Advanced planning made such a difference for myself and my family..

Advanced planning made such a difference for myself and my family..


When a person dies, someone assumes the legal authority to manage their “estate.” The term “estate” is the legal word used to collectively describe all the assets (property) and liabilities of the deceased.   The person in charge of managing the estate can be the Executor, a Successor Trustee, or a representative appointed by the probate court.   For small estates, it could be a family member.

It’s not an easy task. It is a job where state laws determine what paperwork and procedures are required and who has the authority to initiate the paperwork. It is not a job we are taught to perform in school, but a job most of us will do when our parents or our spouse die.

These resources can help the estate representative and family members identify what must be done when someone dies:

Creating a living trust or a testamentary trust

A trust is an agreement creating a legal entity that can own property.  Trust agreements are private documents.  They are generally not filed with a court or other public entity.

Q. How do you create a trust?
A. There is no specific form used to create a trust.  In general, a trust is made when:

  • The trust document is signed by the person making the trust, called “the Settlor”; and
  • the trustee changes the title on property being held as an individual to a title held in the name of the trustee.

Once the trust is made, the agreement may be amended and/or revoked, usually only by the person who originated the trust, e.g., the Settlor.

The trust agreement specifies:

  • The person who is in charge of managing the trust assets.  This person is called the trustee.  If a married couple create a trust, they may be co-trustees.
  • The duties and powers of the trustee relating to how certain assets are to be held and managed.  Once assets are titled in the name of the trustee, the trustee may then manage the assets based on the powers described in the trust agreement.
  • The beneficiaries and the conditions on which the trustee is to distribute certain assets and certain parts of assets (i.e. income and principal).
  • The name of the successor trustee.  The successor trustee has the legal authority to take control of trust assets when the original trustee or co-trustees die or become incapacitated.