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Corporate Trustee and Executor Redefined: A Family-First Approach

Trusts offer privacy, continuity, and safety benefits but can also create unique challenges. Choosing the right partner who understands a family’s dynamics is one of the most important decisions.
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We’ve had the unique opportunity to have worked with many successful, multi-generational families since the doors first opened here at Tolleson Wealth Management. And of all the questions we field from those client families, perhaps the one we hear the most is this: “Who will oversee my financial affairs when I can’t or after I’m gone?” This is an important question, considering the possibilities run the gamut and differ considerably from one family to the next. Perhaps there are concerns that everything might fall on the shoulders of a spouse who has never managed the family’s finances. And if not them, maybe it’s the younger generation or family members who own an interest in the family business.

A common way to avoid these concerns is to establish a family trust. But there’s still the follow-up question: “Who do I name as trustee?” Naming a trustee is undoubtedly an important decision — especially when factoring in their role and responsibilities over the next few years, decades, or generations.

Being a trustee is a massive time commitment and requires a special skill set that not everyone possesses.

Moreover, a trustee could face legal liabilities should the trust not be administered appropriately.

A common misconception that arises when choosing a trustee or executor is the idea that there are essentially two options and that neither is ideal. The first is to choose someone you know — spouse, friend, business associate, grown child, parent, etc. But as previously mentioned, that person could lack objectivity or expertise. Alternatively, naming a corporate trustee could be perceived as rigid and impersonal.

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Since 2006, Tolleson Private Bank has combined the best of both worlds by bringing the individual approach to our corporate trustee and estate settlement offerings. From our roots as a family business, we understand the level of engagement it takes to become a trusted steward of generational wealth. We’ve also worked hard to shed the stigma of the insensitive trust company that’s difficult to work with. In doing so, our client families have found that we understand their families through the financial lens — their dynamics, challenges, and long-term needs. The result is a collaborative process that is informed and nimble rather than stuffy or bureaucratic.

We don’t just help strengthen financial futures. We build relationships. By doing so, we balance a beneficiary’s best interest with achieving the larger purpose of a trust and honoring a family’s shared values. We then offer family education regarding finances and trust interpretation and prepare future generations to be successful beneficiaries.

This is not to suggest being a corporate trustee is easy. Properly administering a trust is complex and requires accounting for principal and income, filing trust income tax returns, investing the trust’s financial portfolio, and sometimes overseeing the operation of a ranch or operating business. And that’s all before we start discussing distributions to beneficiaries. Beyond these technical aspects, it’s also about family — their relationships, conflicts, and ability to work together. It can also be about helping family members keep “wealth” in perspective and learn how to integrate it into their daily lives.

We are honored to focus on all of that and more as corporate trustees with a family mindset, and it’s one of the many reasons why our trust business has been successful over the years.

Tolleson Private Bank, Member FDIC.

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