I ask every client “Who do you love. Who you do trust.” Initially, no one knows how to respond to these questions. Everyone wants to talk about who will receive their assets. That is not why I ask. The people we love and trust, the people who love and trust us, are the best people to serve as our successors, or to be given authority to select our successors. Estate planning decisions come from the heart, after a long discussion about family dynamics and what is in the best interest of the children.
Almost every client has asked me “Should the same person be the trustee and guardian?” I tell them that there is no wrong way or right way – only their way. What I have heard my clients say is “I don’t want my sister, who works in finance and is a genius with money, serving as trustee because I want her 100% focused on the well-being of my orphaned children.” I have also heard “While my brother isn’t great with money, I trust him to bring on advisors to help him. He loves us and he loves our children and he will do the right thing as guardian and as trustee.” Only you know the dynamics between and among the people you chose. Will Chris the guardian come into conflict with Pat the trustee because they have a history of trying to control each other? Will Jordan who lives in Kansas understand that a request for $3,000 for club soccer from Morgan in San Francisco is not a ridiculous ask, but a typical expense for an athletic, competitive and dedicated child?
Estate planning is not filling in a questionnaire and then signing documents. If it was, I would not do this work. Counseling my clients, and helping them determine what is in the best interests of their children, is one of the most satisfying parts of my work. These are important decisions, and I am honored every time I am asked to help.Published in