I happen to represent the best private Trustee in the world. No offense to professional Trustees—this does not include them. In the world of private individuals who act as Trustees, not as a professional calling, but by way of happenstance or accident, there aren’t many who do such a good job. It’s understandable, being a Trustee is hard work, it comes with a mountain of complex obligations and liabilities and very little, if any, appreciation. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
Many private Trustees make the mistake of thinking that they are acting in the shoes of the Settlors (a Settlor is the person or persons who created the Trust). That is an entirely wrong perspective because the Settlors (being that they created the Trust) have far more leeway and freedom in how they manage the Trust estate and invest the Trust assets—they can be downright reckless if they like. Whereas a private successor Trustee has no such leeway—they must meet a host of complex duties and obligations under California Trust law, which includes things like (1) prudent investing, (2) treating all the beneficiaries fairly, and (3) avoiding conflicts of interest.
It is also a mistaken belief that Trustees are like CEOs of companies. Not true. Corporate officers operate under the “business judgment rule” that allows them to take risks and make decisions that may or may not be prudent and conservative; provided that they are acting within acceptable business judgment. Companies are expected to risk capital in order to make money. Trustees have no such luxury. Trustees’ duties require them to be far more conservative and risk adverse than a corporation is allowed to be.
One guiding light principle of every Trustee, whether private or professional, should always be that the beneficiaries should be treated with a sense of goodwill and fair play. Sounds good, but not always easy to do, especially if there is hostility in the Trustee-beneficiary relationship (i.e., sibling rivalry). But the law does impose a duty on Trustees to treat their beneficiaries fairly—even where the Trustees do not like the beneficiaries for whatever reasons. Some Trustees do and some most certainly do not.
So how do I know I represent the best private Trustee in the world? Because the Trustee I am referring to meets all of these requirements. And this Trustee exudes a constant and consistent sense of goodwill and fair play towards some very difficult beneficiaries. This does not mean, by the way, that the Trustee is a pushover or does whatever the beneficiaries require. That would not make for a good Trustee. Instead, this Trustee makes hard decisions under difficult circumstances and takes all action necessary to keep the Trust administration moving forward and fairly proportioned among all the beneficiaries. But even after going through a very tough issue, or series of issues, the sense of goodwill and fair play remains ever intact. This is the way a good Trustee should act. And yet, it seems to be so rare among private Trustees.