In my practice I often see cases involving family members who don't get along. Some have even stopped speaking to one another because of the inheritance issues. I also encounter individuals who are hard to work with. Of course, in these cases there are always issues that are difficult to work out to the satisfaction of everyone involved. To make matters even worse, these ugly cases are the ones that usually drag on for years. Every time I see the caller ID on my phone concerning one of those cases, I get a sinking feeling. Those cases are not easy for any of the participants unless they happen to be the type of persons that thrive on drama. I work hard to close those cases without having to incur the time and expense of court litigation. When those cases are finally closed, everyone may not be happy but most realize that concessions are necessary in order to move on.
I can endure the difficult cases because at the same time I also get to work on those perfect cases that involve great clients and a happy ending. It usually starts with a person (or a couple) wanting to establish an estate plan. I meet with the client and brainstorm with him or her to devise a plan that is custom tailored to his or her circumstances. In most cases, the centerpiece of the estate plan is the revocable living trust. With my assistance, clients generally make good decisions concerning the persons who will manage their affairs for them if they are unable to and how their assets will be distributed should they pass away. Ideally these important decisions are made at a time when the client is not under stress and can think through his or her choices.
The happy ending cases usually involve funerals or memorial services that have been planned and arranged by the client as part of their estate planning, which makes it a lot easier for the grieving family. After the service, the successor trustee assumes his or her role in administering the trust and is wonderful to work with because he or she possesses the skills and temperament to perform the necessary tasks. All of the beneficiaries know what the trust states and have no "issues" since it had all been discussed in advance with them. The beneficiaries are not upset, fighting, or even considering hiring attorneys to promote their interests. There are no surprise issues that the client overlooked or didn't prepare a resolution for. The trust administration is completed in a relatively short amount of time without court involvement, the inheritance is given to the beneficiaries, and there are no lingering issues to be resolved. These happy endings are always the best.
2013 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved.