A Trustee’s Interpretation of a Trust: Prevention or Promotion?


I suspect that trustees are most often comfortable with a prevention-focused mindset.

Here’s my take: Our ability to recognize and deliberately change our mindset just might be a game-changer.

For all the laws and expectations put upon trust officers, it’s important to note that they are human and differ in how they approach their work. This is important to remember, whether you are leaving the inheritance or are the beneficiary of one in trust. As reported by WealthManagement.com, A Tale of Two Trustees” explores the different mindsets of trust officers. Take note – this applies to trustees as well.

The original article offers the diverging stories of trust officers A and B, and is really written to an audience of other trust officers to advise them. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the article isn’t also useful to you non-trust officers. The trust is a tool that operates on paper and through the legal code. Under the terms of the trust, the trustee is bound by the clear language of the trust, but language can only take you so far. Interpretation of the not-so-clear language is left to the trustee.

According to the article, there are at least two important mindsets for trustees to adopt: “prevention-focused” and “promotion-focused.” This is equally important regardless whether you are choosing a professional trustee or an independent individual trustee.

So, do you want a trustee who plays things conservatively and works to protect the language of the trust as written, or do you want a more proactive approach that may lead to a greater boon to the beneficiary? In the end, there is a necessary character assessment required when choosing the most appropriate trustee.

To talk with an attorney about your estate planning needs, visit www.elderlawannarbor.com.

Reference: WealthManagement.com (January 9, 2013) “A Tale of Two Trustees