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Ethics Important when Naming Trustee

Ethical concerns surface in a Louisiana estate case.

Members of a Louisiana family were surprised, when they learned that an executive director of a council on aging had been named trustee of a relative's estate and lawsuits followed, according to WRBZ2 in "Family claims 95-year-old swindled by Council on Aging director."

The controversy began when Helen Plummer, 95, of Louisiana passed away, leaving approximately $300,000 in liquid assets and two homes.

What family members were not aware of, was a will had been drawn up for Plummer and they were extremely unhappy about that will.

About two years ago, Plummer started visiting the local council on aging. While there, an attorney board member of the council drafted a will for her. The will created a trust to oversee Plummer's estate.

The executive director of the council was named as the trustee and given a $500 monthly benefit from the trust for her services, until the last trust beneficiary reaches the age of 30, which will occur in 21 years.

Upon learning of the will, the family began removing cash from Plummer's bank accounts, since they were afraid that the director would seize it. This prompted the director to sue the family members.

They claim that they have not spent any of the money, they have records and it was inappropriate for the director to be given a stipend in a will which the council on aging had drafted, and the family was not told about.

Local elected officials have become involved in the case, since the director's actions may be against the state's ethics rules.

This case is interesting since it is often appropriate to name a non-family member as a trustee who can be trusted to act independently. That trustee is normally paid for their services. However, there are ethical concerns for a council on aging to draft such a will for the benefit of its director.

It would be more appropriate for an outside attorney to advise on and draft a will.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances, as well as passes ethical considerations.

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