“Who’d want to chance it?”
That is the question posed to readers in a recent New York Times article addressing estate planning challenges and opportunities. The Times’ specific focus is on the uncertainty – and, pointedly, acrimony – that can arise among siblings after mom and dad are gone and it turns out that the estate they left invites disagreement among heirs.
The central focus in the Times piece is on children’s trusts that can engender disputes among beneficiaries after parents have passed away.
Entanglements and flat-out friction do occur.
In fact, they materialize routinely in select estate plans that are executed in California and across the country. Drafters – often parents – simply assume that their kids are collectively a loving bunch that will happily coexist following their understanding of trust terms and the stated intent of a will and other planning documents.
That expectation is sometimes defeated. When that is the case, the Times notes, a plan can become “complicated and stressful” for heirs.
That can easily happen when an appointed party with oversight of asset distributions and other key financial matters is dealing with a trust that names several children who are not treated identically. Understandably, friction can arise in such a case, leading to sibling rivalries and even litigation. The potential for an adverse outcome can be especially heightened when a trustee is a family member.
Potential downsides can sometimes be guarded against through the appointment of a corporate (professional) trustee, such as a bank or attorney. Moreover, stresses the Times, planning fallout can often be reduced when separate trusts for each child in a family are created in lieu of one comprehensive children’s trust.
Thinking ahead and being proactive is always important in the realm of estate planning. Close and timely consultation with a proven estate administration attorney can help ensure that planning goals are fully identified and optimally promoted through careful document selection and execution.