Co-personal representatives or co-trustees.. Good idea?
Most of my clients are very sensitive to their children’s feelings and want to treat all of them equally. While that may be a great idea as to the distributions under a trust or a will (or it may not depending on the circumstances), the idea of joint trustees or personal representatives may result in a very difficult and expensive administration (this blog discussion does not address tax issues when it may be necessary to have more than one personal representative or trustee) .
One lesson I have learned in my years of practice is to recognize that what clients often think that they want is not what they really want. As our job as a “counselor”, we need to explore our client’s reasoning and determine what they “really want”. After we listen, then we can give them alternatives to help them accomplish their goals.
Usually there is one child that is business savvy and another child who is maybe more of a “free spirit”. While yes there could be checks and balances on each other acting as personal representative or trustee often with disparate personalities getting any work done may be hard! When co trustees and co personal representatives don’t agree then legal fees grow exponentially. You know you are in trouble when you are hired to represent a co-personal representative or co-trustee (with the other co- personal representative or co -trustee is a sibling) in the administration of an estate or trust and your client will not even talk to his sibling and only refers to that sibling as “the other child of my mother”!
I try to give my clients choices and the advantages and disadvantages and of course the client’s intent controls. Most of the time when I discuss the practicalities they pick one or many times they will pick an independent trustee or personal representative such as a trust company.
ADVICE: While a decision in the client’s estate planning documents are always the client’s ultimate decision it is VERY important to discuss the practicalities of what happens after they are gone. This can be a disastrous issue especially in the case of step families when a step mom is administering a trust in which the remainder beneficiaries are the natural children of the decedent. So take your time, analyze what will REALLY happen (as best as we can predict) and give your clients their alternatives. In the long run they will really appreciate that counseling.
GENEROSITY IS A KEY TO HAPPINESS…REACH OUT AND HELP SOMEONE TODAY!