Are you a co-trustee with someone else of a loved ones trust? Do you know someone who is a co-trustee? When you are a co-trustee with someone, things can go wrong.
It doesn’t seem possible for things to go wrong when you have two people being a co-trustee. You may wonder what could go wrong if you have two trustees. When you have two trustees, those people may not agree on everything, which is where the disagreements may come into place.
In the case HALL v. CUTSINGER (345 P. 3d 412 (Okla. Civ. App. Div. 3 2015) a parent and her co-trustee had to bring action against the other co-trustee to recover money and assets her purportedly misappropriated while he was a co-trustee. The trustor and her daughter advanced all of court appointed expert’s fees, and then granting them a judgment against defendant son in the amount of $30,510.35. “With regard to trial court’s order requiring trustor and her daughter, as co-trustee, to advance defendant son’s portion of fees owed court appointed expert, expert was not a party to trustor and daughter’s action to recover money and assets purportedly misappropriated by son as co-trustee, and thus, statutory provisions governing parties seeking to recover costs or fees, or opposing a motion, did not apply.” The trustor and her daughter tried to recover money and assets purportedly misappropriated by son while acting as co-trustee, evidence was sufficient to support trial court’s finding that son had no apparent ability to pay his share of court appointed expert fees. They made seven attempts to serve him with a writ of general execution were unsuccessful, and attempts to garnish his bank accounts were unsuccessful because he had no money or assets, other than exempt funds, in those accounts. The trustor created the Norma J. Hall Living Trust and appointed her son as co-trustee. In 2008 when learning her son misappropriated money and assets belonging to both her and the trust, the trustor removed him as trustee and appointed her daughter as co-trustee. This case eventually went to trial on December, 2012. Appellants recovered a judgment against the son of approximately $1.4 million. After a hearing, the trial court issued an Order finding that each party was responsible for one-half of the accountant’s fees but that the son had no apparent ability to pay his share. The court ordered Appellants to pay the balance owed to the accountant and granted Appellants a cost judgment against the son in the amount of $30,510.35, the portion of the accountant’s fees owed by the son.
This case is stating that even though you are a trustee that doesn’t mean you can take money out of the trust. Being a co-trustee means that if the trustor passes away or gets ill, you and the other co-trustee are in charge of the trust. You have no responsibility of the trust until you act as a trustee of the trust.
Integrity and common sense will avoid lawsuits. If you are a trustee be honest. Don’t pay yourself without notifying the beneficiaries what you doing, how much you are paying yourself and why you deserve the fee. Do not commingle the trust funds with your money. Keep a separate trust account. Use a business arms length approach when conducting trust business. Bend over backwards to be fair to the beneficiaries. These are precautions you can follow that will make your life easier if you accept the responsibility to serve as a trustee.
An experienced probate and living trust attorney like Brent D. Coldiron, knows what to do in these situations. His fees are reasonable. The best money ever spent is to get good legal advice before signing your name to something. Contact Brent at (405) 478-5655 or 737-2244. His website is http://coldironlaw.com.