Again, this problem calls for a professional trustee. An objective party needs to run some projections on what will be needed in the future to fund the grandchildren’s education and how much remains for the children to spend. In addition, an “honest broker” will be needed to deal with the children who don’t agree that they need to restrict their spending. In both cases, it will take someone from outside the family to play the neutral, unbiased role.

It’s an unpredictable business administering a trust. Estate planners can try to foresee the future when they draw up plans, but “life happens” and some situations can’t be foreseen.

I leave you with these three thoughts:

1. Clients must review their estate plans regularly to make sure that the assumptions the drafter used when the plans were drawn up still apply. Above is a rudimentary chart you can use to see how often you should have the plan reviewed.

2. Unless your clients are dead certain that their situations will never require a professional trustee (and can explain why in clear terms), they should have these trustees in their estate plans somewhere.

The most compelling reason for professional trustees, again, is their ability to spot developing problems and to put fixes in place before these problems become impossible to solve. Once that happens, it’s more likely there will be lawsuits among family members, and that’s proof positive the estate plan has failed.

3. It’s important to ask: 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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