Selecting an Attorney As Your Trustee

In a couple of recent posts, we have discussed the challenges that exist when a wealthy person does not have children or other close relatives to assist them if they become incapacitated and/or die.  Because of the concerns associated with asking a friend of distant relative to serve in these roles, many people consider appointing their attorney to assist them if they can no longer make decisions for themselves.

For instance, they may ask their attorney to serve as agent under a power of attorney or as trustee of a trust for their benefit.  Likewise, they may designate their attorney to serve as the executor of their Will or as trustee of a trust created for minor beneficiaries or charitable beneficiaries.  While selecting an attorney to do this work can be a good idea, not every attorney is suitable to fill these roles, and careful consideration should be given to selecting the right attorney.

Like most areas of law, the estate and trust area is a specialty that is complex and requires proven, experienced expertise.  Selecting an attorney to serve as agent, trustee, or executor who does not have this expertise can create significant litigation.  Conversely, selecting an attorney with solid estate and trust experience can ensure that your estate plan is fulfilled correctly. 

In a recent case in which F+B was involved, a wealthy client named an inexperienced attorney to serve as trustee of a trust.  In that situation, the attorney committed significant errors because he did not understand the proper standards for making distributions, the correct mechanism for accounting for his actions, etc.  As a result of his mistakes, significant litigation ensued to force the attorney to correct his actions. 

F+B Partner Don Ford serves as trustee of trusts for several families.  In that role, he works with the family members to establish proper monthly budgets for distributions, addresses conflicts between the beneficiaries, files the annual tax returns and accountings, and works with the investment professionals to ensure that the trust assets are properly invested.  All of these duties incorporate the complex laws related to estates and trusts for which Mr. Ford is a Board Certified expert. 

If you have come to the conclusion that selecting an attorney to serve as an agent, trustee, or executor is an important part of your estate plan, the attorneys at Ford + Bergner LLP are experienced in assisting clients in advising clients in making these decisions.  Please contact us so that we can assist you too.