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The Montana Estate Lawyer

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The story of one farmer's estate planning.

Here's a story I heard earlier this week.

A Montana farmer died leaving a son and daughter.  His living trust directed that the trustee distribute his trust estate, including his farm, to his son.  He left investments equal to 10% of his estate in "TOD" (transfer on death) accounts for his daughter.  He named the daughter as trustee and personal representative of his will.  When the farmer died he had $60,000 in assets in his sole name (not in trust or in TOD accounts).

So, what happened?

The daughter collected her 10%.  She filed the will to get herself appointed as personal representative.

Then she just sat.  For five years.

Basically, all she had to do was transfer the $60,000 of assets into the trust and distribute the trust assets to her brother. But she wouldn't do anything.

Her brother - and his lawyers - went to court time and again, but they couldn't get the judge to make her do her job or fire her.

Now there is to be a trial about all this in the fall.

I don't know if the father explained to his daughter why he was leaving her such a small part of his estate. - I'm guessing he didn't.

I don't know why he named his daughter to handle his affairs when her brother was the one who was to benefit.  Did he feel that he was evening things out by giving her the job of administering his estate?  - Obviously the daughter didn't see things that way.

I don't know why the farmer's advisors didn't help him make better decisions and get his trust funded.

And I don't know what the brother and sister's relationship was before dad died.  But I know what it is now.  And I know what it will be after the trial.

Useful lessons for us in this sad story.


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