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Jun 12, 2011 09:56AM
l need to add that even if you have all the legal paperwork done weii, it is possible that your wishes will not be carried out as you had set forth. Many states have very week laws concerning misappropriation of the estate by the Trustee or Executor and nothing happens when it occurs even if family members obtain their own attorney to get the illegal actions of the Trustee corrected or to get the misappropriating Trustee punished and monies returned Because of that, if there are certain items you want to go to certain people, then give those things to your loved ones while you are alive. You will know they got them and they will know you love them because you entrusted them with you treasures. The possible alternative, if you leave the division of your property to a Trustee who may have no better intentions than the one I observed a few years ago, you have no idea who got your treasures. Family members who have just suffered a huge loss because of the passing of their mother also suffer injury in seeing a supposedly trusted Trustee thumb her nose at the deceased as well as the legal system. In addition in our case, the Trustee first helped herself to anything she wanted and then allowed her favorite from among the beneficiaries to take all she wanted...which was everything but the trash. The Trustee should have gotten nothing as she was not listed as a beneficiary and only the immeduate children were to share and share alike in the estate as beneficiaries. As it happened only one beneficiary split the entire estate with the Trustee. Another more painful aspect happened as well. The mother had wanted to be buried within 5 days of her death and if was included in her file on her funeral plans and discussed with the Trustee with several witnesses present. There were no questions about her wishes and the Trustee had promised that her wishes would be followed to the letter. The mother passed on December 19 which meant her funeral should have taken place by Christmas Eve. However, the Trustee claimed she could not have the funeral that soon.(all plans had been made for years and casket, grave, and.stone had all been chosen, paid for and had been waiting until needed) .that she had Christmas plans that she must attend to and her "accomplice" beneficiary joined with her in that. They set the funeral for two weeks ffrom the mother's death to the strong objections of all the rest of the family and refused to change it to the date the Mother had clearly requested. Family members were forced to endure that Christmas and every one since it thinking of their Mother and Grandmother's remains lying in cold storage , forgotton, while her Trustee and one beneficiary were fulfilling their Christmas obligations attending and giving parties. Then when time for the service finally came, her Trustee, the ugly sister of the family, got her final long awaited dig in against the beautiful deceased older sister by insisting all parts of the remembrance would be open casket although the two week passage of time had clearly taken it's toll on the appearance of the deceased making the visitation and funeral not recomebeded for youn chilfren. All functions sould have been closed casket if the Trustee had had any decency in her at all.
While this all may sound like a made up night mare scenario, all of these things did happen and most if not all could have been avoided if the Mother had given some consideration to the situation and soufght help from other family members or social workers who were available to her for this very purpose if she felt incapable of handling it all herself.
Some suggestions you may want to consider:
Give away what you can of you most important things while you are living.
When choosing a Trustee or Executor, avoid anyone who HAS EVER been shown to appear to have more greed than integrity....even if they were 5 years old when it happened. When some one departs this life owning even just a small amount of property, something unspeakable seems to take over the souls of certain people and they are possessed by a determination to own as much of the deceased's property whether or not they are entitled to it per Will or Trust; or whether or not they have a need for it You may want to speak with your bank about their Trust Department and what services they offer and what the fees are. While anyone can choose to take advantage of what they may see as easy money, the bank would help to protect the intentions of the Deceased in order to protect their reputation in that field. So if State laws are lax, non-existant, or not enforced in your state regarding inappropriate activities of Trustees and Exectors an independent Trustee from a business concern (maybe the larger the better?) may help support the intent of the will or trust maker.
Be sure that every Beneficiary has a copy of the trust and/or will as soon as it/they are signed, witnessed.and notarized and leave copies with a well trusted best friend, your attorney, perhaps a doctor or trusted, well known insurance agent would agree to hold a copy for you in their secure file on you. The more copies you have out, the harder it will be for some one to obtain and destroy them all. While a home fire safe may protect important papers in a fire, remember that the entire safe (unless securely and permanently fastened to your house) can be removed from your home while you are away at the doctor's office, etc.. This has been known to happen when one sibling wanted to insure their receipt of cars or houses, etc., and things such as bearer bonds or gold cons. Individuals lacking in integrity have been known to steal and destroy all known copies so that once the maker is deceased , no wills or trusts can be found. In this case some one may obtain a larger share of the inheritance by state law than the deceased had intended them to receive.
Needless to say these activities can be fatal to a continuing family relationship among family members. So if they can be avoided before they happen, the health of the family relationship is protected. In spite of this, untold numbers of families are destroyed every year by disagreements over inheritance following a parent's death.
These are all issues you may want to consider when it comes time to make or revise a will or trust. I wish my mother had been more open about her will and had not succumbed at age 94 to a many year long campaighn aimed at getting her to change her Trustee/ Executor because she was the mother I told you about above. I was powerless to help prevent what unfolded. By sharing this information with you, I hope you can be thinking along these lines and protect your family from this kind of devastation. I am sure there are other pitfalls that could occur. Discussing these issues with others on this discussion may bring up a wealth of information or pitfalls to avoid. My wish is that no one has to lose a parent and a family member at the same time due to the family member's uncontrollable need to steal everything a dying parent may own. Her nature was well known and conclusions on my mother's part that every one would behave and play nice when she passed on were at best naive. In truth, she probably was not in a sound frame of mind when she caved to my aunt's relentless campaign to change trustees. But those laws also are vague in my state and require a difficult court trial that would be de-moralizing and cruel for an ill or elderly person to be subjected to, if ability is challenged There should be a private and direct moral criteria for an attorney to be obligated to use if he should be asked to draw up new papers that change something as important as a trustee or beneficiary in a long standing document especially when that new "Trustee" is the one always attending all the meetings, speaking for the one who's will or trust is being changed and makes phone calls to the attorney regarding the trust or will when the owner of the document is not availabe and it is clear the call is not at the behest of the owner and the "Potential " new Trustee is clearly in charge of the "owner" and the situation. (When my mother was made to sign a new trust it not only changed the Trustee, it made it easier for the Trustee to have her declared incompetent. I know definitely that my mother would never have knowingly signed for that change. If it contains one change she would not have approved if she were operating on her own free will and knew what she was doing, why should I or anyone believe that the other change was one she approved of operating on her own free will?). We must lobby legislatures in all states for laws that protect the sick and the elderly as well as protecting their (duly prepared according to law) wills and trusts from those who would take advantage and choose to steal a deceased's property intended for others.
(I know this has gotten really, really long and I thank you for your patience. I couldn't figure out how to say it shorter.).