My stepmom and I are co-trustees on my dad's estate, she doesn't want me knowing her financial business and wants to make a settlement offer in exchange for me to relinquish my position as co-trustee. I have concerns, I want peace in the family, but my dad made me co-trustee for a reason. Is this a suspicious request?
Yes. One Co-trustee can't buy another one off. Seek counsel immediately.
Estate Planning Attorney
Split interest trusts (lifetime income beneficiary, future remainder beneficiaries) have a built-in conflict of interest (income beneficiaries prefer income and remainder beneficiaries prefer growth). However, when you add a blended family to the mix, the conflicts become more apparent. Further, the discretion trustees are frequently granted to make discretionary distributions of principal may exacerbate this conflict.
These situations would frequently call for a disinterested 3rd party trustee that has duties to be fair and impartial to both current and future beneficiaries. Having you and the step-mother serve as co-trustees was probably an attempt to mitigatae this conflict by having both current and future beneficiaries represented in the decision process.
Consult with the attorney that represented your father (or seek independent representation of the attorney also represents your step-mother) and get direction on the specific duties of the trustee (the discretionary authorities, the reporting responsibilities, etc) and make a decision based on facts and your father's intent. An alternative may be to have both you and your step-mother resign in favor of an impartial 3rd party trustee.
Elder Law Attorney
If you have accepted your role as Co-Trustee then you have a duty to be smart about managing other people's money.
Before you make any decisions you should consult with an attorney without your step mother present to give you candid advice as to your options.
You can look to this website or to naela.org for attorneys who practice trust and estate law and who have an office near you. Good Luck!
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