Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Estate Planning, Surprise is Unwelcome.

A trustee is a trusted fiduciary who holds the utmost responsibility and duty in caring for another's assets. It's not just a duty of care and loyalty, not just the morals of the marketplace, and not just honesty alone, but the "punctilio of an honor the most sensitive." This statement from Judge Cardozo is the repeated classic statement for describing the fiduciary duties required of all trustees. An article in the Utah Bar Associations Bar Journal by Scott M. McCullough and David W. Macbeth, two Utah attorneys, describes the difficulty of choosing the right trustee.

They state the case for and against a family member. In many estates a family member is a good choice. For others, a family member is not a good choice, because of the complexity of the financial affairs and family dynamics. The case against a family trustee might be a lack of expertise or experience, finances, time restraints, lack of supervision. Also there can be a lot stress and pressure on that family trustee from other family members.

In the Huffington Post, Jordan M. Atin addresses explains the trustee selection in the Michael Jackson case. Jackson was very specific in appointing his attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain to be the trustees of his estate.

Some of the reasons are obvious. Jackson's estate includes very complicated tax issues, valuations, and royalties and music related properties that require a great deal of expertise to handle. And perhaps Michael felt that the administration of his estate would be a burden to his family.

Michael's mother is obviously disappointed in his decision, but the author says it's probably not about the money. Sometimes family members simply want their place in the life of their loved one "properly recognized."

The worst thing you want to do is suprise your survivors. Surprise and disappointment can lead to suspicion and litigation.

1 comment:

Betty said...

Your article points out the importance of estate planning. I originally thought that estate planning was only for the wealthy. Then I picked up a book called Die$mart. It taught me that estate planning was a must for everyone—young, old, rich or poor.

No surprises for our loved ones please!