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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Why Should You Consult With a Gold River Trusts Lawyer When Choosing an Executor or Trustee for Your Estate?

December 10, 2010

As a Gold River trusts lawyer, my practice focuses primarily on helping everyday folks with their planning. These are generally professionals employed by others such as teachers, state employees, lawyers, sales reps, small business owners, etc. who are college educated, but in most cases have not amassed great wealth.

You see, that’s because the amount of wealth you have is not an indicator of whether or not you need estate planning. Every adult needs estate planning—the question is how much planning do you really need to protect your family if the unthinkable happens.

Another common misconception along these lines is that it doesn’t really matter who you choose to oversee such affairs if the unthinkable happens if you’re not dealing with huge bank accounts or a super complex estate.

I find this to be the number one reason that many of my clients will automatically name their closest family member or oldest child when I ask who they would like to serve as executor or trustee of their estate. But as we often find out in conversation, this person is not always the best choice. Perhaps that person lives too far away to truly manage the estate. Maybe he or she is not a good communicator and won’t be able to handle the tensions that arise when a loved one passes away. There are a number of reasons why people don’t make good executors or trustees and people simply overlook these concerns when making this decision.

That is why I like to really take my time with families and walk them through the process of choosing the right executor or trustee for their estate.  In evaluating whether they are making the best choice we explore the following:

  • Who are ALL the potential choices, including those outside the box such as extended family members, friends and professionals?
  • What is the size and more importantly complexity of the estate assets?
  • What are the family dynamics?
  • Who are the client’s beneficiaries?
  • How are the assets going to be distributed?
  • How financially savvy is the candidate and do they handle their own finances well?

Depending on the answers to these questions, we may gravitate to a professional trustee such as a bank, trust department, or other professional. The costs and limitations (minimum estate size) of a professional trustee are also discussed.

There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing either a personal or professional trustee/executor and it is important to recognize these when making a well informed decision about who will be handling your estate.

I also provide the client with information and instructions to share with their chosen trustee/executor. This information includes checklists of things to do and when to hire professionals. We also offer a family meeting where everyone can sit down go over what the plan means and the role of the trustee/executor while you are still alive and well.

I believe these steps are what truly sets apart working with a Gold River trusts lawyer from doing an estate plan yourself. I consider it my duty to make sure clients are not only choosing the right executor or trustee, but that their person of choice is well equipped to act and care for the grieving family members immediately upon their passing. I’ve seen far too many situations where families did not choose the right executor or trustee and the family paid dearly because of it as a result.

But again, all of that is avoidable with a little bit of help from a Gold River trusts lawyer. So if you need assistance choosing the right executor or trustee to oversee your affairs once you pass, give us a call at (916) 241-9661 and schedule a free Peace of Mind Planning Session. These sessions are normally $750, but we’ll waive that fee with the mention of this article.

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I totally see the difference between your service and your typical legal estate planning service. The experience you mentioned where you get this big document you don’t understand and a trust that never gets funded was EXACTLY our first experience. It cost a small fortune too. Really - it is the difference between providing a legal document and providing an estate planning service.

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