The next several short articles will discuss several trust problems commonly witnessed by estate planners.  The recent George Clooney film, The Descendants, brings to light several estate planning headaches.  That’s right, Texas trusts and estate plan advice taught by Hollywood!

An article in Forbes (“George Clooney Makes Estate Planning Sexy“) first brought these Hollywood trust planning tips to my attention.

Here’s the first Hollywood lesson about trusts:

“Unearned wealth causes conflicts.”

In the film, Clooney’s character, Matt King, is a descendant  of a wealthy banker (hence the film title).  The wealthy banker has made King the beneficiary of a trust containing valuable Hawaiian real estate.  King’s cousins are trust beneficiaries, too.

This situation results in all sorts of drama, especially if you’re an estate planning attorney.  For one, the Hawaiian real estate has enormous monetary value, but it also has tremendous sentimental value.  The trustee has to make tough choices, and it’s difficult to keep all the beneficiaries happy.  Some beneficiaries want to keep family property in the family at all costs; other beneficiaries may really want to sell the property because they desperately need money.

This type of situation is not unique to a Hollywood script.  In the everyday world, probate attorneys counsel trustees and executors in situations like this.  For example, sometimes several siblings inherit Mom’s house equally, but only one of the siblings is named executor in Mom’s will.  What does the executor do?  If the executor (or trustee, if the house is in a trust) sells the house and distributes the proceeds, that may really upset a sibling who wanted to keep the house in the family.

The lesson to be learned here is that you should discuss these issues with your family and future executor or trustee before it’s too late.  I have many clients who think that their kids will be able to “work it all out” without any disagreement whatsoever.  That’s possible.  However, it’s also possible that the person you name as executor or trustee will end up being the “bad guy” to other beneficiaries.  It’s sad to think that a parent’s death could drive siblings apart, but it happens often because Mom insisted that her kids could work it all out on their own.

Being an executor of a will or trustee of a trust can be a thankless job.  However, you can make the job a lot better by talking everything over with the beneficiaries before the tough choices need to be made.  After you make your Texas Last Will and Testament or your living trust with your estates attorney, make it a point to discuss your property with your beneficiaries.

Wills and estates clients tend to get wound up about saving money on probate attorney fees or avoiding inheritance taxes–but they are often not concerned enough about saving heartache and turmoil for their families.  It’s great to have an attorney help you avoid probate and avoid estate taxes, but please don’t rely on your beneficiaries to “work it all out” without you.



Visit for more information on how to choose an executor in Texas, choosing a trustee of a trust in Texas, what an executor does, what a trustee does, how a trust works, what to do if there’s a disagreement about selling trust property, if a trustee is stealing from the trust, or other trustee litigation, contact Richardson, Texas lawyer Isaac Shutt at  

Shutt Law Firm’s office is conveniently located just north of Dallas, TX, near the intersection of highway 75 and Campbell Road.


You can also call Mr. Shutt at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed in this article or to discuss a different legal matter.  For existing clients, quick phone-calls and brief e-mails are always free at Shutt Law Firm PLLC.  Please consider the Shutt Law Firm if you’re looking for a McKinney law office for probate, McKinney Wills Lawyer, McKinney estate planning attorney, power of attorney in McKinney, TX, or guardianship attorney in McKinney area.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing in this brief article constitutes legal advice.  The information provided herein is merely provided in the spirit of education.  If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney for your specific legal situation.   Further, nothing in this article shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship.  No such relationship exists until both you and attorney Isaac Shutt sign an engagement letter with the Shutt Law Firm, PLLC.