This is the second post in the series of several short articles that discuss several 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 final major Hollywood lesson about trusts:

“A Trustee Must Be Objective”

As a refresher, in the film, Clooney’s character, Matt King, is the descendant (hence the movie’s title) of a wealthy banker in Hawaii.  The wealthy banker put very valuable property into the trust and named King as the trustee of the trust.  The banker also named several family members as the trust beneficiaries.

By naming King as trustee of the trust, the banker gave King tremendous responsibility.  If you are considering setting up a trust in Texas, even if it is a relatively small trust by comparison, naming the trustee may be one of the most important decisions you make.

For example, in the film the trust contains a huge piece of Hawaiian land.  King, as the trustee, must decide whether or not to sell the property and divide the proceeds among the beneficiaries.  Is that what the trust’s creator would want?  What would the ancestors want?  Do all of the beneficiaries agree that the property should be sold or just some of them?

Because the trustee has so much responsibility, it is important to choose a trustee that is responsible, trustworthy, objective, and good at dealing with property.

Why is it important that the trustee be objective?  In the film, King was working with a real estate professional to sell the trust property.  It comes to light that the real estate pro had been having an affair with King’s wife.  King backs out of the sale after learning of the affair.

Here, the trust’s creator never could have known that his trustee’s personal life might affect his actions as a trustee like this.  But the lesson remains:  If you do know of a reason that a potential trustee might not be objective, consider choosing a different trustee.  Also, be sure to name successor trustees if your first choice becomes unavailable.

This type of situation is not unique to a Hollywood script.  In the everyday world, estate planning lawyers counsel trust clients who may face situations like this.  The lessons to be learned here are that you should think carefully about potential trustees, consider naming a corporate trustee if you can’t think of an objective trustee in your family, and consider hiring a trust attorney for legal counsel.



Visit for more information on living trust, trust law, choosing the trustee of a trust, when you should have a trust, or property in a trust, 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 Richardson, TX law office for probate, Richardson Wills Lawyer, Richardson estate planning attorney, power of attorney near Richardson, TX, or guardianship attorney in Richardson 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.