Archives for December 2011

Family Trust Abuse

For many years, there has been a strong push as an element of estate planning to place assets in a revocable living trust, primarily to avoid the cost and procedures of Probate. Generally, within a family situation, each spouse has some degree of responsibility as a Trustee of the other spouse’s trust, often in conjunction with another family member.  A problem, unfortunately all to common, may arise when the non-spouse trustee needs funds and with his/or her authority invades the principle of the trust, usually intending to pay it back – but being unable to to so. Once such a problem is discovered, the fall out often results in the creation of an insurmountable rift in the family,  followed by recrimination and, possibly, civil litigation as well as criminal proceedings. In view of the forgoing, both careful drafting of the legal instruments as well as an in depth analysis of the character and financial acumen of the non spousal trustee can reduce the potential for actions that may dramatically impact the financial conditions of the family for years to come.

Timber Sales

With a downturn in the economy, landowners are often tempted to sell some or all of the marketable timber on their land, sometimes in response to the first person who approaches them, offering cash for the right to do so. The value of timber on land is generally not reflected in the appraisals of local tax assessors so, without consultation of with both a professional forester as well as an attorney with experience in timber contracts, a landowner may not be aware of the reasonable value of the timber on the land.  Moreover, without professional assistance,  a landowner may not be  reasonably protected from the persuasive sales pitch of a timber buyer nor receive a fair price for the trees that are taken. In addition, the forest, itself, may be overcut, taking many years to return to a condition consistent with the long range interests of the landowner for wildlife habitat and the like.