Serving as a successor trustee or personal representative of an estate can be a difficult and thankless job. Some beneficiaries or heirs can be unhappy about the person chosen to be in charge or the way the estate is going to be distributed. Family history and/or personal issues between the administrator and some of those involved can cause problems for everyone.
When money is involved, some people become downright nasty and abusive towards those in charge of administering a trust or probate. Some take the opportunity to revive old grievances. Others are suspicious that the person in charge is not forthcoming with information or, worse yet, is in breach of his or her duties of impartiality or has a conflict of interest. When you factor in the grieving process and any pre-existing family dynamics, things can get out of control.
Probates are court supervised proceedings to administer the estate of a deceased person. The strict rules of probate court and judicial oversight of the proceedings tend to reduce conflicts to a large extent. On the other hand, the administration of a trust is rarely supervised by a court and usually just involves direct interactions between the successor trustee of the trust and the beneficiaries.
It is wise for a person who has the task of administering a trust to engage an attorney to help with and oversee the process. The attorney can make sure the trustee knows of his or her legal obligations. The attorney can also serve as a “buffer” between the trustee and beneficiaries by providing an overview of the trust administration process and provide occasional status reports to beneficiaries. If necessary, the attorney can communicate directly with a beneficiary who simply cannot communicate with the trustee without being angry or abusive.
If everyone involved in the administration of a trust or probate would leave their biases and personal feelings outside of the process, the administration could run smoothly. In addition, future interactions between those involved would not be tainted by memories of how someone “acted out” during the administration process. If you are the trustee, give serious consideration to engaging an attorney to help with and oversee the process.
© 2022 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved. (You may obtain further information at the website www.marlenecooperlaw.com, by email at MarleneCooperLaw@gmail.com, by phone at (626) 791-7530 or toll free at (866) 702-7600. The information in this article is of a general nature and not intended as legal advice. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this article).