Administering a trust can be an unpredictable business. The estate planner tries to foresee the future when he/she draws up the plan, but after that “life happens” and some situations can’t be foreseen.

I leave you with three thoughts:
One, have your estate plan reviewed regularly to make sure that the assumptions that the estate planner used when he/she drew up the plan still apply. Set forth below is a rudimentary chart of how often you should have it reviewed. A more detailed plan will be published in a future issue.

Age 60 or younger: Every 9 years

Ages 61–70: Every 7 years

Ages 71–80: Every 5 years

Ages 81 or older: Every 3 years

Two, unless you are dead certain that your situation will never require a professional trustee and you can articulate why you believe that convincingly to someone who is knowledgeable about trusts, there should be one in your estate plan somewhere.

The most compelling reason for a professional trustee is (as illustrated above) their ability to spot developing problems and to institute fixes before they become impossible to solve. Once situations become impossible to solve, lawsuits among family members become more likely, and a family lawsuit is proof positive that the estate plan has failed.

Three, how do estate plans fail? As one Hemingway character responds in the novel The Sun Also Rises when asked how he went bankrupt, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

H. Joseph Price, Jr. is a shareholder and director at the law firm of Dysart Taylor.

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