Deland on Estates and Elder Law

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Who Can be Trusted with the Cake?

Billy Beneficiary was happy with the wonderful cake his mother, Sally Settlor, had baked for him. What he was not happy with was what Sally Settlor did with the cake. She gave it to her sister, Tina Trustee, with instructions to give Billy only as much as she, Tina, thought he should have.

Billy was outraged! His Aunt Tina didn't even like cake! What's more, he didn't think she really liked Billy either. She was always telling him he ate too much cake, and criticizing his friends, including his roommate, Minnie Moocher.

So Billy went to his friend, Louie Lawyer, to ask what his rights were in the situation. Louie explained that Sally Settlor must have written down her instructions to Tina in a document, called a  Trust Document.

"What if there's no document?  Billy asked.

"In that case," said Lawyer, you may have no rights at all, and the cake belongs to Tina. Normally, when somebody gives something to somebody, that's the end of it. They get to keep the thing, and nobody else has any rights to it.

As we saw in the last post, though, Billy was in luck. There was a document. Billy came bouncing into Louie's office the next day, with the document in hand.

Louie looked it over carefully. The lawyer read the document in a funny way - scanning down the pages as if he was looking for something. Then he stopped at one particular page and read it carefully.

Then he looked up at his client "Who is Bobby Trustee?" he asked.

"Oh, that's my cousin," said Billy.

"Do you get along with him?"

"Sure," said Billy. "We go fishing together, sometimes."

"How about if Bobby was the Trustee instead of Tina?"

Billy's face lit up. "That would be great! But how can I get the cake away from Tina?"

"Well," said Louie Lawyer, "The trust document names him as successor trustee after Tina.  If Tina resigns, Bobby can take over."

"How do I make Tina resign?"

"I don't think you can make Tina resign. Of course, you an go to court to show that she is a bad trustee."

Bobby frowned. "I don't want to go to court over this. What else can I do?"

"How do Bobby and Tina get along? "

"Bobby's her son. He's pretty much her mainstay. He takes care of things at her house, and stuff."

"Well, Trustee is a job. Maybe Tina would be willing to hand it over to her son?"

"I'll be seeing Bobby this weekend. I'll ask him. I've been complaining to him about this cake situation. I think if there was anything he could do about it, he would be willing. I think Aunt Tina would be more likely to listen to his suggestion than to mine."

The lawyer smiled. "In the meantime, suppose I write Tina a letter reminding her that she is supposed to account to you?  There's nothing that can get a voluntary, unpaid trustee to resign like reminding them of their more onerous duties!"

When I suggest to people that they might use a trust, they often think that approach is complicated. All these other people are getting involved! Why can't you just give the property to your beneficiary and that's that?

Well, here's the thing. If it weren't for the trust, Billy Beneficiary wouldn't have any cake to worry about, because Minnie Moocher would have eaten it all. That situation is simpler, but is it better? You decide. If you would like to follow this story, Click here and subscribe. To find out more about Trusts and the Law, take a look at other posts on my Blog.



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Jennifer A. Deland, Counselor-at-Law advises clients throughout the Metrowest area, including Holliston, Hopkinton, Milford, Medway, Medfield, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Sherborn, Dover, Southborough, Sudbury and Westborough.

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