Gosh, times are slow in the newsworthy estates and trusts area, except for the conga line of people claiming to be heirs of Prince. Reluctantly resorting to fiction for material, “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is on many best books of summer lists. It has several estate planning lessons which can be gleaned from the following plot facts (all of which are in the first 40 pages so hopefully I not spoiling anything for anyone who wants to read the book).
A father created a trust for his four children. The trust was to be distributed when the youngest child reached the age of 40. His wife had the power to invade the trust in the event the children needed the funds earlier. One of the children had a power of attorney from his husband which allowed him to mortgage their vacation property without the husband knowing about the mortgage (trust me, I got the pronouns correct). Another child had a legal predicament which resulted in his mother lending him the entire proceeds of the trust to bail him out and hoping that he would re-pay the amount (called “the nest” by his siblings).
Points to be learned:
1. One should never give a power of attorney to a non-aged spouse unless it is contingent on disability. The potential for abuse is too great otherwise.
2. This trust should have divided into separate shares either at the conception or when the children were in their early 20s. Each child could have then borrowed from his or her share only, if necessary, rather than from the entire trust.
3. The wife/mother of the children should not have had the power to distribute all of the funds without being held to a prudent investor standard.
4. Of course, if there had been good estate planning there would not have been a novel, nor would I have a blog.