Mediation When Siblings Distrust Each other to Manage a Trust

Dear Ms. Allison: My sister is the Trustee to my parents’ living trust. My brothers and I do not believe she will fairly divide the assets between all of us. She didn’t handle his life insurance right when my father died, and let it lapse. So why would she do things right when mother goes? RV in Tulsa County

Dear RV:

I am sorry for the loss of your father and your disappointment over the handling of his final affairs. You have a couple of options to establish confidence in your sister’s management of your mother’s affairs when she passes.

1. A Trust lawyer can review the Trust documents for you, assuming you have access to them. The lawyer can then explain to you the terms and instructions. A lawyer can represent you during the trust administration to be sure your rights are protected. This will insure that your sister appropriately follows the provisions of the Trust to fairly divide the assets between you and your siblings. The lawyer can explain the trust terms to you. For example, if the language gives your sister discretion to pay out the assets as she determines necessary, what is fair may be up to her in a way, but the law will not let her be arbitrary.

It is wise to hire a lawyer early in the process so that from the beginning, the Trustee duties are clear and the Trustee is essentially prevented from doing anything incorrectly. If done while you mother is alive and still competent, she can clarify any unclear language or conflicting Trust provisions.

It may sound expensive, but getting your lawyer involved early avoids legal fees later when it is more difficult to solve. Waiting until your mother dies and things have gone awry is not the best plan. Once things have been given out it is difficult, if not impossible, to get them back and trying to do so is very expensive – both monetarily and emotionally.

2. A Trust and Inheritance Mediator  works with people who dispute the way things

are done due to vagueness in the Trust documents, the Trust administration, or due to an unfair way things have been created, for example, undue influence being exerted on your mother when she was putting her plan in place. If the dispute arises the mediator can resolve it. You must bear in mind that your mother, as the Grantor, has every right to set the documents up as she sees fit. Even so, after her death things can still be changed with the help of a mediator who works with the disputing parties to be sure that everyone is heard and collaborates toward a solution that is best for everyone.

A Trust mediator takes no one’s side, keeps the focus on mutual benefits, and eases conflict by helping the parties to avoid direct confrontation. All parties must agree to abide by the final, written agreement, which is enforceable like a contract is. The parties to the dispute can (and should) bring their own attorneys to advise them during negotiations.

Generally, mediation can resolve disputes in far less time than a lawsuit, and for much, much less money and stress. Please do contact me if I can help with mediation.

That’s your question, Asked and Answered. My best to you,

Gale Allison

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