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Success In Selecting A Successor Trustee As A Parent

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There are some families wherein it is especially difficult for the parents to select one child because they feel that they will be hurting the feelings of the other child. It seems to happen most when there are two children (as opposed to three or more) that clients will want to make both children co-trustees/co-executors.

I explain to clients that on a macro level it works better to select one child. I point out that if they agree on everything, nothing has been accomplished; and if they disagree, I ask, “who settles the dispute?”

The main issue to consider in selecting which child should be the successor trustee of the living trust, are the ease with which it could be done by each child. Does one child live closer? Does he/she have a fair amount of time to get it done?

Is one child better with finances? In some families there is one child that is very good with money. In other families, there is a child who cannot manage his/her finances. In both those situations, it makes the selection fairly easy.

What do you do when the children are equally as good with money; live close by; and have the time to undertake the task? There is not a solution that works for everyone. Some people select the oldest child because that is the way it has always been done. Others ask themselves ‘who would be hurt more if he/she were not selected?

I inform people that they can select one child to be the successor trustee/executor and another child to make health care decisions. For some clients, that is a perfect way to solve the problem.

Finally, I always tell people that are having difficulty deciding, that the vast majority of children understand that a decision had to be made. What they are mainly concerned with is that they are treated equally in the distribution of the estate! It is a statement that resonates with most of my clients. I believe that it does because many of my clients think about their own parents and realize that my statement was accurate.

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