When choosing a trustee or co-trustee of your trust or executor of your will, you want to make sure that you choose someone that you trust who has the time to devote to administering the estate and is able to get along with the other heirs and beneficiaries. Most people choose a spouse, child, sibling or other family member, attorney or other neutral third party to act as trustee or co-trustee of their estate, especially when the estate is large , there are a lot of assets, or to divide up responsibilities and executor/trustee tasks.
Conflicts can erupt when a person chooses their second wife and a child from a prior marriage to act as co-trustees of their California estate because there may be animosity or resentments that have built up between the two over the course of your marriage to your second spouse. Your ex-spouse and other parent of your child may also try and get involved after you death if your ex thinks the child is not getting a fair share of your estate. Even if your second spouse and your child get along, things can soon change after you pass away when one party finds out that the other is getting a larger share of the estate or even an equal share and feels cheated out of their inheritance.
To avoid conflicts from arising, there are several things that you can do:
- While you are still living, you can give away any family heirlooms to your child so that there are no fights between you current spouse and you child after you pass away about furnishings, or collectibles or heirlooms.
- Open joint bank accounts with your spouse. Your spouse is the automatic beneficiary of those accounts after you pass away.
- You can designate a named beneficiary to your stock and other investment and financial accounts and insurance policies.
- If you and your spouse own a home or other real estate together, you can take title as husband and wife as community property or as joint tenants with right of survivorship at the time you purchase the property. If you own property prior to marriage, you can either quitclaim an interest to your spouse at a later date or to your child or to both. Or you can leave property that is held in your sole name to a designated beneficiary in your will or trust. However, wills and trusts can be contested so if you anticipate any problems, you might want to just quitclaim an interest to the beneficiary while you are still alive.
- Choose a neutral third party as your executor such as an attorney or financial advisor.
- You should also update your will and trust if you do remarry or if you acquire new assets.
Keep your will and trust documents in a safe place, and give copies to your attorney and people who you trust to make sure that your wishes are carried out the way you wanted them after your death.
If you have any questions regarding will or trust contests and would like to speak with an experienced will and trust attorney in San Diego, please call my office at 858-792-5988.