The Most Important Party in Trusts

There are many situations in which a trust would be the best option to leave money and other assets behind for children and other family members. In the case of an accident or sudden death, a trust can protect a grantor’s assets from creditors. In addition, a trustee can later preserve and manage those benefits so that the beneficiary received them in a prudent fashion.

Now, in all the terms mentioned above, which would most likely be the “X factor” in a trust agreement? It’s not the grantor, since he’s the one who chose to open a trust in the first place. And it’s probably not the beneficiary, as he was likely always lined up to receive the grantor’s assets.

All that leaves the trustee to being perhaps the most important party of a trust. The legal definition of “trustee” is: “The person designated in the Trust Agreement to take possession of the trust assets and manage those assets. He must also preserve and manage the assets according to the provisions in the Trust agreement.”

The trustee is so important because he needs to abide by the trust agreement and protect and distribute the assets accordingly. This job can be a bit more time-consuming than people give it credit for. There’s a whole lot of paperwork and billing associated with the task. Throw in familial issues such as physical custody and it could suddenly turn into a full-time job.

And that’s exactly why grantors should consider an impartial trustee out of the family. For one, it would make issues much less complicated concerning the distribution of assets. Grantors typically turn to a family member for a trustee, but there’s no guarantee that he has a family member both willingly and capable to do the job.

Professional consulting can help grantor’s pick a reliable and capable trustee. We understand the process and want to help people leave behind their assets exactly as they wish.

If you would like more information about trusts, contact us.

Ford+Bergner Joins the 100% Law Firm Challenge Club at South Texas College of Law

FB STCL 100%

(Credit: South Texas College of Law)

Dean Donald J. Guter had the pleasure of hosting lunch on May 29 for STCL alums Jacob R. Franklin ’13, Andrew M. Wagnon ’13, Thomas A. Horton ’13, and Aaron Dobbs ’05, of Ford+Bergner, who were honored as first-time members of the Law Firm Challenge club. The firm also recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary and relocation to the landmark Bank of America Center in downtown Houston.

“Our firm has the largest number of South Texas grads practicing estate and trust litigation,” Aaron noted during the luncheon. Recently named by Texas Monthly as a 2014 Rising Star in estate and trust litigation, Aaron also supports the College by serving on our Young Alumni Council.

Ford+Bergner is the forty-ninth organization to have met the Law Firm Challenge by achieving 100 percent participation in alumni giving to the College. The program is open not only to law firms, but also to law offices, in-house legal departments, and government offices with three or more South Texas alumni who make a donation to the College within a given year.

Guardianship: How Far Do Parental Rights Extend When Medical Decisions are Involved?

Making medical decisions can be difficult. Many times there are options to treatment. Even some natural and holistic approaches are becoming more popular than traditional medicine. However, medical decisions become even harder when a child is involved. Parents must not only consider what is best for their child, but often times they receive opposition from medical institutions if they do not agree with the recommended treatment. A recent case out of Ohio well illustrates this.

A Parent’s Right

In the summer of 2013, Sarah Hershberger was treated with chemotheraphy for 3 T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. Eleven-year-old Sarah pleaded with her parents to discontinue the treatment due to the miserable side effects. Her parents, who are Amish, sought a more natural approach with herbs and vitamins. They based their decision on prayer and the fear that chemo itself may kill Sarah. The Children’s hospital that was treating her immediately filed a guardianship court proceeding, with the goal of forcing the chemo treatment. Their argument is that evidence shows the survival rate for Sarah’s type of cancer is higher than 80 percent with treatment, but the disease is almost always fatal without. Sarah’s family, however, says they traveled to South America to a natural cancer treatment center. Experts there found that Sarah was now cancer-free. The judge in the case ruled in favor of Sarah’s family. However, his ruling was overturned twice in appeals court. The family went in to hiding to avoid having Sarah under the care of the court-appointed guardian and having the chemo treatments continued.

High Stakes

Most recently, the court-appointed guardian submitted her resignation to the judge, meaning the court battle is over. Sarah seems to be doing well. While it’s difficult to judge if her good health is the result of her first round of chemo, the natural treatments or both, the bigger question revolves around a parents right to choose the treatment they feel is best for their child. This question arises more than one might think. Parents may object to a certain treatment on religious grounds or simply because they think a different treatment is more beneficial, as is the case with Sarah’s family. Does a hospital have the right to force treatment on a child? Parents have a “fundamental right that guarantees you to raise and bring up your child in terms of their health care in a way that you see fit as a parent,” said Maurice Thompson, Sarah’s attorney and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “The Hershbergers have strong constitutional rights that are at stake h ere,” Thompson continued.

Most think of guardianship cases as involving parental neglect or abuse. However, as this case illustrates, the question of guardianship can arise even within a loving, supportive family. Ford + Bergner specializes in guardianship issues and has the expertise to advocate on behalf of parents in even the most unique cases. Contact us for a