Berman & Asbel, LLP

Appointing a trust protector to oversee co-trustees

Pennsylvania residents who have made an estate plan that includes a trust might wonder what will happen if their trustee runs into a conflict with their beneficiaries. They might also be concerned about their wishes being carried out properly. Provisions in a trust could be reasonably interpreted in different ways by different people. A trust protector is a person who can be called upon in the event of disputes or other issues to make sure that the person's wishes are followed.

The person who administers the trust is the trustee, and most of the time, a trust protector is not needed. However, if a beneficiary disagrees with the way the trustee is managing assets, the trust protector could look at both sides and make an assessment.

The owner of the trust designates the amount of power that a trust protector has, so that power might be limited to settling disputes. However, a trust protector might also be given the ability to alter the trust if needed. For example, a trust might date from the days when the estate tax exemption was much lower. The trust might therefore include a number of complicated provisions that are now unnecessary. A trust protector could make changes in keeping with the creator's original intent.

While a trust protector may be a good idea in many cases, there are also ways to reduce the chances that their services will be needed. For example, people should regularly review their estate plan to ensure that it reflects their current family and financial situation as well as current laws. Communicating with beneficiaries about the contents and intent of the estate plan may also reduce the likelihood that a dispute will arise. A person might also want to work with an attorney to make sure documents are prepared correctly.

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