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Estate planning includes choosing a reliable trustee

Thinking about the end of one's life is not always easy. Careful consideration is needed for estate planning, and it often involves making difficult decisions. One choice people in Oklahoma have to make is who will act as trustees for their trusts. Making the wrong choice could jeopardize the trust and the future it secures for one's heirs.

A trustee's job is to manage the assets contained in the document, which often includes specific instructions for how those assets are to be held and distributed. Although the trustee may legally hold the title and possession of the trust (and may even be a beneficiary as well), the trustee is not permitted to help him or herself to its funds. The trustee may not even borrow from the trust unless the document includes codicils for that purpose.

A trustee who takes from a trust in violation of the settlor's instructions is embezzling. Even if the person's defense is that the money was borrowed and he or she has repayed what was taken, the fact remains that the trustee misappropriated the funds. In some cases, caregivers ingratiate themselves into the lives of elderly people in order to be named trustees. Beneficiaries who believe this is the case and that those trustees are not reliable may have to petition to have the trustee removed.

People in Oklahoma who are considering estate planning are advised to give careful thought to the choice of trustee. Naming a trustee who has addiction or financial issues may be setting up one's beneficiaries for years of frustration and litigation in dealing with an untrustworthy agent. Seeking solid legal counsel from an experienced attorney is a good way to ensure that these difficult decisions are made with the backing of excellent advice.

Source:, "Estate Planning: Trustees who 'borrow' trust funds", Dennis Fordham, Feb. 18, 2017

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