Helping Families Flourish


Chicago Trustee Collaboratory BLOG

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  • December 09, 2018 6:26 PM | Deleted user

    An unprepared successor might be compared to a baseball player, coming into a “down four runs, bases-loaded, two outs” situation cold and unrehearsed

    Put Your Successor Trustee to Work NOW!  
    Don’t Wait Until It Is Too Late

    By Dan Felix, J.D.

    Another in the Series on Keys to Successful Trust Administration

    One of the prevalent and cruel myths in the trustscape is that the successor trustee has nothing to do until the disability or death of his predecessor.

    At first glance, this wrong idea makes some sense. After all, it reflects the legal reality: typically the successor has no fiduciary or legal duty until it’s time to formally step in.

    And this wrong idea also embraces a surface practical reality: Predecessor trustees are often the grantors, and are doing just fine! Just ask them. These grantors are confident that they know what they’re doing, having been managing well for years, and don’t think they need to start trading away their independence or spending their valuable time and money with their successors – thank you very much!

    If that’s not enough, this wrong idea also relies on the related myth that everything the successor needs to know is contained within the four corners of the trust documents. When it’s time, they believe those papers will provide all the answers.

    The flaw in these myths is revealed in the pursuit of two competing goals:

    We want to set the family up for success and to have them suffer the least pain additional to their inevitable raw feelings over the loss of the grantor.

    We want the successor to act promptly and efficiently when the time comes.

    For many of us, at the end of our day, these goals are what we truly want. As our ultimate priority, our attention goes to how and best we can accomplish them. These goals can be accomplished best by advance work with the successor trustee, because the truism applies that the ounce of prevention avoids pounds of cure.

    And so, it should not be surprising: the failure to pursue these worthwhile goals and the failure to involve the successor trustee in advance costs families both money and peace of mind, and too often, their future harmony as well.

    Here’s a list of 12 of the many breakdowns I’ve encountered. All of them could have been avoided – or at least mitigated – by getting the successor involved sooner than later.

    The successor isn’t clear on what to do. There’s a cartoon of an anxious restaurant manager reading a multi-page instruction book for handling a fire while engulfed in flames that are burning down the restaurant. It illustrates well what I see with distressing regularity in families faced with trust administration: the time of crisis is the worst time for the successor to learn about the intricate technical and soft-skill demands of the job. Make sure your successor knows what needs to be done and has the time to do it.

    The grantor has ignored his team. That same trust document may need to be tweaked after review with the rest of the family and your successor. Their reasonable questions and issues may surprise you. And certainly tweaking is necessary because of the changes that inevitably come with time. Review your trust documents with your successor and your family at least once a year.

    The family doesn’t know what to expect from the successor. Just because you’re good with your successor, doesn’t mean that your family is. The more familiar they are with your successor and what’s going to happen next, then the more comfort they will enjoy while travelling through this difficult passage. Your family shouldn’t meet your successor for the first time at your funeral.

    The grantor doesn’t understand the process. Intergenerational transition at its best involves clarity, consensus, competence and compassion. These aren’t achieved by a one-time preparation of documents. As essential as those documents are, they are not enough to accomplish the goals of family harmony and cost efficiency. A trust is a process as well as a document. Get your successor involved in the process.

    The successor doesn’t know where everything isor who’s who.  Your successor steps into your shoes with both your family and your advisor relationships and also with all your accounts, property, etc. Too many widows spend the first 90 days after they lose their spouse just looking for stuff. Also, advisor relationships work best with a pre-existing personal and professional connection. Our key deliverables include an inventory of property as well as a well-used contact list of stakeholders and advisors. Make your successor familiar with your assets and your team.

    The grantor is in denial about his health needs. One of the successor trustee’s key collaborators is the health care manager/advocate. Having the grantor and the grantor’s family comfortable and already working with this health professional can make a huge difference when disability or other sickness interferes with daily activities. Have your health team coordinate with your successor trustee. Remember: the successor may be paying for various health needs and wants of an invalid beneficiary, who may be you!

    Denying your successor the gift of practice. Do you want the maiden voyage of your trust to also be its first test flight? And at a time when you’re not available to make any necessary tweaks or changes? Better to have some stress-testing in advance to make sure it will fly, and that everyone’s on board. Practice with your successor.

    The grantor can’t give direction on everything. Our lives often change rapidly. In exercising discretion in unforeseen situations, your successor’s understanding of your values and aspirations is helpful and sometimes critical. Share your values and concerns with your successor. There are many good surveys and programs for sharing your values and goals. My own one-page survey is available on request.

    The successor doesn’t understand your trust. The booklet that is your trust document contains your critical directions. It is not written in plain English, but in the foreign and difficult language of legalese. Many of us cannot read a trust document without the help of an estate lawyer. Make sure you, your family and your successor are on the same page, with a translation of your trust into a short simple memo to outline who does what and when. The trust translation memo is one of our core and most popular deliverables. Warning: your estate lawyer may not like it!

    Failing to warn your successor about your dirty laundry.  Some grantors treat their successor like their hired hit man. You may, for example, plan to disinherit a family member and can’t bring yourself to inform that person in advance. So you leave both the disinheriting and the informing of it to your successor.  If that’s your plan, at least warn your successor about the unpleasant tasks ahead. Your successor may require combat pay – or may refuse the contract entirely. After all, leaving surprise messes will likely make for bigger family upset and could lead to lawsuits.

    Leaving your successor unprepared. This is especially true of difficult tasks. For one example: You direct your successor trustee to impose a budget on your surviving spouse or descendent. The next questions are: are they on a budget now? Why is your successor in a better position than you are to get that or other similar jobs done? Work with your successor to establish a program in advance, such as enhancing budgeting skills with the help of your investment team and daily money manager.

    Your successor decides not to step in. It’s not apocryphal. When the time comes for them to go from successor to active trustee, some banks refuse to serve because of some language in the trust or because of the amount or type of trust assets. That’s the worst time to find out that there’s no successor! Make sure your successor trustee is comfortable with the powers and the constraints of the trust document – and is committed to serve.

    These are lessons drawn from real life situations. How to apply them to your own situation is an individual matter. Each person and every family is different and will face their own unique constellation of issues with their own process for moving forward.

    Bottom line: to pursue the goal of a financially and emotionally successful transition, involve your successor trustee.

    Don’t wait until it’s too late.

    © Daniel Felix, Felix Group, P.C. 2017 all rights reserved

    Dan Felix is an Illinois-based attorney whose goal is to help families flourish. Dan advises & counsels families and their trustees – and in the right situation serves as trustee or other fiduciary. Dan is also a well-regarded speaker on effective trust administration, addressing families, lawyers, and trust professionals. To contact Dan or find out more about his practice, visit

  • October 07, 2018 4:32 PM | Deleted user

    “Bad Patients”, those, for example, who are non-compliant or angry, can make it difficult for providers to offer the best care possible − especially given a hectic and frustrating healthcare system. Understanding the complexities of “bad patients” may assist providers in their efforts to administer treatment more effectively.

    Are “Bad Patients” Treated Differently?


    By Teri Dreher


    What is a “Bad Patient?”

    “Bad Patients” come in all shapes and sizes.  They’re labeled as:

    • Non-compliant
    • Entitled
    • Angry
    • Mentally unstable
    • Unable to take responsibility of their own health and
    • Excessive talkers

    In a fast-paced, frustrating healthcare system, these patients can be discouraging to providers.  These providers spend a lot of time trying to help people who oftentimes won’t help themselves. Still, what makes a “bad patient” is complicated.  Providers may have an easier time helping these patients if they understand some of the complexities these labels hold.




    Noncompliance is one of the most prominent issues in healthcare today.  When patients don’t follow care plans or medication guidelines, a slew of problems arise.  Patients have poorer health outcomes, and waste time and money for both patients and providers. If a provider were to ask a patient, “Do you plan to be non-compliant?” most patients would certainly say no. So, where is the disconnect? Noncompliance happens as a result from many factors. Cognitive issues, lack of understanding, lack of ability to pay, or a myriad of behavioral health and social issues. Instead of asking patients if they plan to be compliant, a better question is, “What’s your plan for following these instructions?” This allows providers the chance to assess if their patient can be compliant, or if they need some extra help.


    Entitled and Angry Patients

    Entitled and angry patients and family members have many reasons for being unhappy with their healthcare quality. Some have experienced medical error, some are dispositionally challenged and quick to irritability.  Some have an intrinsic sense of entitlement due to skewed perceptions of the healthcare system. Unfortunately, these individuals do not understand that they are their own worst enemy. Alienating care providers almost never results in better health outcomes. Doctors, nurses and social workers are human beings and they will gravitate to those who show appreciation and subconsciously “write off” and avoid the more difficult patients and family members all too often. All the provider can do in these situations is to listen openly to the patient’s complaints and address what is in their power. It is never okay to abuse a care provider, yet it happens all the time. Once communication reaches a level of abuse, providers must walk away to protect their own health.


    Patient with Mental Health Issues

    Patients experiencing mental health issues can be extremely difficult to care for. Chronic conditions and disorders often result in patients burning out or alienating family members and care providers alike. Unfortunately, this demographic is also at risk for poor physical health. They often fall in to the categories of non-compliant and angry. It’s part of the nature of their conditions. No one wants to give up on these patients, but their conditions paired with a system that doesn’t prioritize their unique needs can make it difficult. Support staff is critical in these cases and communication during moments of lucidity are key. If nurses, social workers, and care coordinators can’t handle these patients, providers should consider hiring a private patient advocate.


    Excessive Talkers

    These patients are difficult for care providers because it is a challenge to discern the important information from the “red herrings” that spew out at high volume and speed. It’s like the “little boy who cried wolf.” These patients talk so much that the doctor may be distracted from listening because it is simply exhausting to listen to people who talk nonstop. Doctors only have a few minutes to see each patient today and the “talkers” are unknowingly stealing time from the next patient. Still, providers have a responsibility to listen to their patients, and collecting relevant information is certainly necessary. One way providers can keep visits focused is to set up guided questions that leave little room for excessive detail.


    Want to be a good patient?  Understand that ER doctors and hospitalists generally allow about 5 minutes per patient.  Office visits occur in 15 minute increments. Doctors simply do not have the time they wish to fully focus on each patient for longer. Be sure to follow your physician’s instructions and medications prescribed.  Share your healthcare concerns and frustrations with your physician in a respectful manner. They are working in a fractured system also. Come to your appointment prepared, outline a list of issues to discuss and keep conversation to the point. Practice these guidelines to avoid being labeled a “bad patient”.



    The author, Teri Dreher, is an active member of the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory and with over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She incorporated NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.



    The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory

    Helping Families Flourish! The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory is a not-for-profit professional association helping families and their trusted advisors understand and manage their family trusts.

  • September 05, 2018 7:24 PM | Deleted user

    Though a family member in the role of trustee seems free of cost, the actual price tag may be surprising. This should be kept firmly in mind when making a decision about who acts as trustee. The physical and emotional cost of some potential trustees may eclipse the cost of a professional.

    The Cost of the Wrong Trustee

    It’s more than just the fees.

    By Dan Felix, J.D.

    Another in the Series on Keys to Successful Trust Administration

    "How much?" 

    Yes, it's a typical question for any professional service. In my world, I’m often asked about my fees very early in discussions with new families seeking an independent trustee. In fact, sometimes the first question posed is about my fee structure.

    This is a fair question. Certainly, when selecting a trustee, one appropriate criterion is the fee.

    Generally, individual professional trustees charge on an hourly or flat fee basis. Trustees who aren’t individuals, that is, who are corporations, often charge on a percentage of the trust assets under their management, on top of a minimum fee.

    In contrast, family members are often expected to serve for no charge – a holdover custom from when families lived close by and their significant sacrifice of time and tranquility was expected in other domains of life as well.

    And where there’s an option for a family member to serve, the thought could be why should we pay fees, when our son (or sister or cousin or our daughter, the business owner) will serve for free.

    The falsehood is that “no fee” is the same as “free.”

    It’s not.

    “No fee” can come with a lot of costs.

    First and second, “no fee” ignores the question of fit, as well as the truism that often one gets what one pays for.

    More significantly, a true pricing comparison needs to include financial components other than trustee fees alone.

    One additional financial element is the value of the peace of mind that the trustee will meet professional standards for both technical work as well as the collaboration with your family and your advisors.

    Another necessary financial metric is the valuation of the cost of the wrong trustee. In other words, you should determine how many dollars are at risk because of the very real possibility that the wrong trustee won’t do the right thing.

    Here’s a list of some typical costs for choosing the wrong trust trustee. I leave it to you to expand and modify this list for the specifics of your family and situation – and total up the amounts at risk.

    The Cost of Squandering your Money. The most glaring example of squandering is the trustee who confuses the trust’s money with his own.

    But there are other examples beyond direct theft:

    • Not paying taxes. I’ve witnessed novice trustees not knowing that taxes were due, incurring penalties and late fees for the trust.
    • Not paying for necessary advice. Perhaps this is a variant on being penny wise and pound foolish. Regardless, this cost applies for legal compliance as well as for tax advice and other necessary expertise. Not knowing what they don’t know, novice trustees can get into expensive problems.

    Over the years, I’ve brought in a range of different professionals to support me to get to the right result for the family including:

    • Daily Money Managers, as well as CPA’s and investment advisors.
    • Those who facilitate collaboration, including mediators, family dynamics experts and life coaches.
    • Those who value, manage, administer, and sell special assets, such as art, real estate, collections, and firearms, as well as social media and other websites.
    • The range of medical and health professionals, starting at the top with the care manager or care advocate.

    Typically, there is a greater cost -- emotional and relational if not directly financial -- for their work that starts in crisis as compared to in advance of crisis. Individuals may reasonably differ on the value of maintaining family harmony and so the price of avoiding family fissure.  And it’s still a cost.

    The Cost of Focusing only on your Money. Paradoxically, the administration of a trust can be more costly where it does not support the objectives, goals and values of the family. According to one study, some 90% of families with ongoing trusts report experiencing this disconnect. Further, at least one probate judge reports that this disconnect is a contributing cause to the increase in trust lawsuits she’s seen in the recent past. The cost of a lawsuit in dollars and cents is relatively easy to price: EXPENSIVE. And again, name the price you are willing to invest to insure family harmony.

    The Cost of Shutting out your Family. Some put a value on transparency as an end in itself and also because it’s human nature to assume the worst when we don’t know. I’ve seen lawsuits arise when the trustee hasn’t keep family members advised. Again, consider the cost of a lawsuit, and the value of family harmony.

    The Cost of Thinking They Know Better. Sometimes others in the trust’s circle have important helpful input. What’s the cost of not considering that?

    There’s the example of the corporate trustee that replaced the roof of the beneficiary’s home – but without first consulting the beneficiary living in the house on either the timing, or the color choice for the roof tile. What was the cost of the beneficiary’s self esteem? What was the cost of the beneficiary’s sense of control or for the beneficiary’s frustration in having the work done on an inconvenient day, or worse, having the wrong colored shingle visible every time she walked in the front door?

    The Cost of Banishing Common Sense and Compassion. An all too common costly mistake is assuming that the love present in a blended family will maintain despite the loss of the grantor, who serves as the glue of the blend.

    One scenario out of the many I’ve seen: The surviving spouse later moves into a relationship with a new significant other, while remaining in the grantor’s house, AND one of the grantor’s children is serving as both trustee and as ultimate beneficiary of the house. There’s an increased risk to both in general anxiety, ill will and fights over repairs and refurbishing.

    The grantor’s blind eye that “our family is different” can be especially costly, not just with the blended family. Over the years, I’ve seen in my office many times the younger son of the grantor, not as straight and narrow or successful as his older brother, who is made the beneficiary of the trust with that older brother as trustee. My family dynamics friends nod their head in agreement over the significant cost to the younger brother beneficiary not just for enduring the psychological abuse from his righteous brother, but in terms of the squandering of the best, most empowering use of the trust’s funds.

    The Cost of Conflicts of Interest. Even some lawyers don’t understand that the law doesn’t prohibit certain conflicts in the trustscape. The two most significant:

    • A person is legally permitted to serve as trustee, even where he himself is a co-beneficiary, meaning that he has the power to minimize the distributions to other beneficiaries in favor of himself.
    • A corporate trustee who is paid based on the amount of trust assets it holds can maximize those holdings by denying a beneficiary’s requests for distributions.

    Even if the trustees have other reasons to deny the distribution, their beneficiaries will understandably suspect that these trustees have not lived up to their fiduciary duty, because these structural conflicts undermine the appearance of independent and impartial decisions. The cost: sometimes ill will, sometimes a hostile relationship and sometimes a lawsuit.

    The Cost of Lack of Preparedness. Some successor trustees don’t begin working for the family until after death or disability. And so they run to catch up to find out about the assets, the family, and the trust documents. In those instances where I’m brought in after the fact, I’ve found additional costs inevitable from having to fix situations that could have been more efficiently resolved while the grantor was still around.  And so, factor in the cost of not helping the trustee get up to speed before the time of crisis. Or alternatively, invest some money in advance.

    These are just the start of the costs that you’ll find if you dig in around the cost of the wrong trustee. Hopefully you won’t find them too late.

    © Daniel Felix, Felix Group, P.C. 2017 all rights reserved

    Dan Felix   Dan Felix is an Illinois-based attorney whose goal is to help families flourish. Dan advises & counsels families and their trustees – and in the right situation serves as trustee or other fiduciary. Dan is also a well-regarded speaker on effective trust administration, addressing families, lawyers, and trust professionals. He is the founder of The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory. To contact Dan or find out more about his practice, visit

    The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory

    Helping Families Flourish! The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory is a not-for-profit professional association helping families and their trusted advisors understand and manage their family trusts.

  • August 05, 2018 12:52 PM | Deleted user

    A legacy is much more than the material wealth we leave behind upon our passing.  In this, the first in a series of articles, the authors help us adopt a broader view of a legacy: why legacy conversations are so important and how to begin the process.

    Legacy Conversations That Matter:

    How to Have Meaningful Legacy Conversations

    Within Your Family Now

    By Sue Rhomberg and John Paolini

    This is the first of a series of blogs on how to have meaningful legacy conversations within your family.

    I couldn’t believe my ears! Here was Uncle Leo – yes, that Uncle Leo – our just departed mother’s little brother, holding the rapt attention of all three dozen or so of our family and old friends in the room. In glorious disbelief, our collective eyes were wide open as he told one story after another about Mom and Dad, things we had definitely never heard before as our stunned glances at each other with each new tale confirmed. Until now, his role in our extended family seemed limited to saying things that embarrassed us all to no end. But here he was, at what was expected to be a somber memorial for our just departed mother, regaling us with stories about Mom and Dad. (Why did they never tell us these fascinating remembrances?)

    Even after Dad died three years ago, Mom had never uttered a word about many of these events, stories that today had everyone in the room laughing hysterically – or, in a few instances, exclaiming in near horror. And, with uncles, aunts, cousins and old friends now excitedly recounting their own stories of our parents, my own brothers and our sister kept glancing at each other with mutual delight (and occasional disbelief) at how this supposedly sad occasion had evolved into a wonderful night of bonding and family discoveries that would surely change each of our views of the family in a profound way.

    If you are a baby boomer, you may have experienced an evolution over time in how you think about what you will pass on to your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren – and maybe even the generations beyond them. Without a doubt, part of the “what” is your accumulated wealth – in the form of hard assets such as investments, your home, personal property and the like. And for many readers those assets have already been dealt with by professionals who are skilled in the intricacies of investments, trusts, taxes and philanthropy.


    What is legacy?

    Legacy means different things to different people, and to some it is quite confusing. If you are like most people, your thoughts don’t just naturally go there. One of the questions that’s probably going through your mind is: “Why do I have to think or talk about my legacy? Won’t it just happen after I die based on how I’ve lived my life? But questions that might also be going through your mind probably include: What if I don’t think about it what is most likely to happen? What will be forgotten and never spoken of again? Am I comfortable with that?

    So what is legacy really?

    To bring things quickly into focus, we like to begin our discussion of legacy with two (rather simple) definitions:

    1. A gift by will, especially of money or personal property.
    1. Something received from an ancestor or a predecessor.

    (Note: As the authors continue to discuss legacy issues, a distinct definition will be developed that will guide readers in generating and transacting for their own legacies. Follow us down the road to learn more.)

    The first definition is, obviously, more legalistic. It’s what estate planning attorneys consider when drafting your will or trust documents. The second definition, by contrast, focuses on family history. Your history. It is your family’s history that informs you, your children and the generations that come after them. It includes an array of family trees, personal belongings and heirlooms, cultural heritage, and stories and lore that are passed along from one generation to the next. It is what guides, inspires, educates and gives meaning to the relationships that both constitute your history and shape your descendants’ future.

    As you plan for the things that will matter beyond your lifetime, conversations about legacy become an increasingly valuable part of that planning – and of leaving things in good order.

    What are legacy conversations and why do they matter?

    What’s the difference between a legacy conversation and just a “plain old conversation” with your kids, your parents or your grandparents? Is it a conversation you should be thinking about? When should you be thinking about it?

    In fact, it’s not the easiest thing to get started on.

    In general, asking questions helps to get the ball rolling – and also helps you to understand something or someone better. At one level, legacy questions are designed to help you better understand and appreciate the people that are important to you. And they often become the basis for those wonderful stories you will share with your grandkids!

    The first step isn’t as hard as you think: just start with a simple question or two. And suddenly you’re talking. YOU and THEM talking. Really talking about things that matter. Not like talking to your kids about what happened at school today or having the talk with them – you know, those awkward conversations of “growing up” and “doing the right thing.” It’s not asking grandma if she won at Bingo last night but instead asking her why she plays and what about it is fun for her.

    How many of you are having meaningful conversations with the important people in your life? Regularly? Sometimes? At least a couple meaningful ones each year? Do you wish you were (or know you ought to be) having them more frequently?

    Legacy conversations begin when people connect with who they are and what matters to them – and convey what matters by sharing not just their experiences and their stories but their feelings about those experiences and stories.

    For some of the people who have had the greatest influence on your life – deceased grandparents or parents, for example – it’s already too late. But for many key people in our lives, it’s not too late to engage in these important conversations. They might even be waiting to be asked! The kids may care more about the great grandparents they never met if they could learn a little something about them. It’s all the same bloodline, and your similarities and traits have all been passed on in some way.

    In our experience, people love to connect the dots about why they are the way they are and understand where some of it came from. Peace of mind may be the hidden gift that comes from just understanding it all a little bit better. Maybe you, as you read this, are realizing that you have stories that ought to be passed along and you are the only one who can tell them. If you don’t, who will?

    Or maybe not – maybe you or the “elders” in your family are not thinking at all about legacy. You (or they) may feel they are just living an ordinary life like everybody else. “What’s so interesting about my life? I’m just your average guy/gal who goes to work every day, plays golf on the weekend and jokes with my grandkids.” “Haven’t I said it all already? What else do you want to know?

    Food for thought: Have you ever asked your kids or grandkids if there is anything they would like you to talk about? Sometimes we overlook what we haven’t said yet – what we might think is routine or even boring – but that may be insightful and interesting for others to hear.

    Where to begin?

    We often begin legacy conversations with two basic questions: (1) “What does the word ‘legacy’ mean to you?”; and (2) “Is leaving a legacy important to you?” More often than not we find that we are soon asking, “Why?” The “why” (as long as it is asked neutrally and not taken as a confrontational question) gets at the heart of what people value, what experiences have shaped their lives and what motivates them to move forward. Without this, you will likely miss important aspects of who these people are deep inside – and they may not feel the need to move into action. Really knowing someone and the experience of being known is at the core of feeling connected as a human being – and granting someone the experience of being known is one of the greatest gifts you can give. The cherry on top is what you receive from the generosity of their sharing and your listening.

    We love legacy conversations and we know that others do too. There is a richness to sharing and discovering what these questions unveil – about ourselves and where we’ve come from. It may also help, whether you are the storyteller or the story capturer, to answer a few of your own questions. As you talk or listen to stories, some sort of light bulb usually goes on!

    Clearly, there are many more questions ahead; we’ve only begun to address some of them here. But hopefully we’ve raised new questions to ponder about why legacy conversations matter. Part of our rationale for writing Legacy Conversations in a serial format is to emphasize that these topics comprise an exploration that unfolds over time.

    We look forward to guiding you as you embark on a journey of your own personal legacy – and your family’s legacy as well. We know it can influence the richness of your life and provide continuity to those in future generations. Enjoy your journey!

    Here’s what’s ahead in our upcoming articles:

    How do I prepare to have meaningful legacy conversations with my family? How do I even create the right environment to begin?

    What values and traits from your ancestors are a part of your legacy? How do you think you will be remembered?

    How do you want to be remembered? Issues around family businesses Achieving your philanthropic desires

    and more

    Sue Rhomberg is a legacy consultant who captures stories that celebrate life and build legacy and supports individuals and families in identifying and expressing their own personal and family legacies. Sue is also a member of the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory.

    John Paolini is a wealth management consultant and certified executive coach who specializes in helping families articulate – and perpetuate – their legacies and the values that support their philanthropic activities.

    The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory

    Helping Families Flourish! The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory is a not-for-profit professional association helping families and their trusted advisors understand and manage their family trusts.

  • July 06, 2018 8:24 PM | Deleted user

    Declaring Independence from Your


    [Editor’s Note: This article was published around the 4th of July, 2017. Given the article’s content, it seems appropriate to reprint it in honor of Independence Day, 2018.]

    How to replace the trustee who isn’t serving the best interests of the family

    Another in the Series on Keys to Successful Trust Administration

    During the course of trust administration, an unproductive relationship may develop between the trustee and the beneficiary.  This fact is not surprising given the sad current reality: few trustees -- including individual and corporate professional trustees -- study how to administer successfully to fulfill the wishes of the grantor to benefit the beneficiary.

    I’ve witnessed too many of these situations where the trustee chooses to ignore or even trample on wholesome options.  Our beneficiary bill of rights offers one statement of the truths of appropriate administration, truths which should be self-evident.

    When confronted with the broken bonds of his relationship with the beneficiary, too often the trustee refuses to simply step aside.

    Many times what motivates a trustee to overstay his or her welcome isn’t clear. It could be he’s seduced by righteousness or by his wrong-headed notions of what the grantor would have wanted. It could be she’s in it for the money or for the exercise of power. It could be some combination of all those. And it could be due to something entirely different. While knowing the exact reason could be useful and perhaps comforting, it is ultimately irrelevant to a family’s pursuit of freedom from this exquisite form of tyranny.

    And so, the question then becomes: if and how to replace the trustee.

    Of course, as in 1776, a good team and counsel can make all the difference.

    Typically this campaign starts with waging war on the battlefield of the legal system through the trust document and the law.  Some consideration, however, first should be given to pursuing a simpler solution: plainly and respectfully asking. I obtained my first assignment as trustee some 30 years ago after the beneficiary simply requested my predecessor resign. That trustee did so, and so my profession began.

    If the request doesn’t work, then consider the legal battlefield.

    Where the trust document provides for a power of appointment to a third party -- such as an elder or a professional acting as trust protector -- the family can seek redress from them. Should the tyrant trustee resist, courts should enforce this peaceful transfer of power. Sadly, too many trusts haven’t been updated to incorporate this modern, healthy safeguard.

    The next option is to assess whether the trustee’s bad behavior constitutes a legal violation. The trustee’s misappropriating the trust assets for his own benefit is the highest treason against his sacred duty to manifest the vision of the grantor for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Courts are generally good in alleviating this perversion, including relieving the trustee from his job.

    Some families expect too much from a judge. Courts generally use a narrow definition of a legal violation, and can’t consider a trustee’s betrayals of his moral, mentoring, empowering and other inescapable roles, unless they constitute violations of his legal duties as well. Further, without evidence of actionable financial or legal wrongdoing, a judge may well add the insult of having the family’s trust pay for the trustee’s legal fees.

    Off the legal battlefield, the campaign to remove the trustee can be waged through a strategy that deploys tactical incentives and disincentives.  As in court, victory, if it comes, will do so in its own time and rely on creativity, persistence and patience – and also carry its own risks and costs, personal as well as financial. Unlike court, the approach is more bespoke, depending on the specific personalities and circumstances at hand.

    Positive incentives can include appeals to the better angel of the trustee, such as offering visions of better administration available from a more suitable trustee.

    The other hand contains the approach summarized by the ancient truism: the squeaky wheel receives the grease. Through application of law-abiding tactics, the trustee is lead to conclude that it’s in his self-interest to resign.

    Whatever the campaign, the beneficiary does well to consider his internal and personal game. This is to own his personal journey and growth, and also to demonstrate due respect for the opinion of others. After all, we should act as if God and the world are watching.

    © Daniel Felix, Felix Group, P.C. 2017 all rights reserved

    Dan P. Felix, Family Trustee, Trust Administrator, Counselor  Dan Felix is an Illinois-based attorney who advises & counsels families and their trustees – and in the right situation serves as trustee or other fiduciary. Dan is also a well-regarded speaker on effective trust administration, addressing families, lawyers, and trust professionals. To contact Dan or find out more about his practice, visit Dan is also the president and founder of the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory (CTC).

    The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory

    Helping Families Flourish! The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory is a not-for-profit professional association helping families and their trusted advisors understand and manage their family trusts.

  • June 01, 2018 3:51 PM | Deleted user

    Having “The Talk” For Elder Life Planning

    By Irving S. Capitel & Allen Siegel

    As the end of a life approaches, a certain discussion is needed to put one’s affairs in order. That difficult conversation is essential on two levels. The more challenging level is emotional, as it acknowledges the sad, inevitable ending and begins the process of “closing shop”. Once acknowledged, it opens the door for the pragmatic level − the concrete plans for death, distribution of inheritances, family expectations.  

    The last act drama in the circle of life involves letting go and people respond to it differently. The comfortable acceptance of one’s death requires surrender − giving up control over one’s life. Giving up thoughts of invincibility and recognizing that I am impermanent.

    The reality of our impermanence is referred to as our transience. It has been said the relative comfortable acceptance of one’s dying is probably the most difficult, yet most important psychological accomplishment of a person’s life.

    With the courage to see what’s there to be seen we become able to create a will, or a trust and other “last act” documents that are part of a plan that is needed to protect those we dearly love. It will be easier for everyone when the family has “The Talk,” that gives everyone an opportunity to express their feelings and concerns.

    Disability, death, and money are matters no one likes to talk about but time is essential. The time to talk is now, while everyone is mentally and physically capable. Don’t wait until a crisis impacts your judgment and abilities. It’s critical for you to be proactive rather than reactive. Talk about the challenges of aging and share your feelings about that with your children, your trustee, and your executor. These issues are sensitive and might require a professional to help guide you through the conversation.

    Having said all this, let’s talk about exploring the possible scenarios of Elder Life Planning with the inner circle of family members that can occur in a safe and confidential environment. The focus of “The Talk” is the family’s articulation of issues connected to aging. Who knows what issues will affect you in your elder years, or how they will impact your family members: your spouse, your partner, your children, and your siblings?

    Here is a list of important subjects that are part of the “last act conversation” we suggest you have with your family. They include, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO:

    1. Do you have health care and property powers of attorney?

    2. If so, who are the decision-makers and are they aware of their responsibilities?

    3. Have you communicated your decisions to others?

    4. Do you have thoughts about do-not-resuscitate orders? If so, what are they?

    5. Who will decide whether or not to “pull-the-plug?”

    6. Do you have a prepaid funeral plan? Do you have life insurance and long-

    term health care insurance? Who knows about these items?

    7. Have you decided how to dispose of your earthly remains? How will your memory be maintained?

    8. Who will be helpful in case you need assistance?

    9. What if nursing care is needed?

    10. Who will take responsibility for helping or sharing with the help?

    11. Do you have a will? Who are your beneficiaries? Who is your executor?

    12. Do you have a successor executor?

    13. Do you have a trust? Who is your trustee and your successor trustee?

    14. Do these people know they are named?

    15. Do they know what they all need to do and the extent of their responsibilities? Have you shared your thoughts about how you would like your estate and trust to be administered?

    16. Do trusted people know where your assets are and how property titles are held?

    Is there a family business that needs consideration?

    17. Have you made plans for all of your computer passwords, digital media presence, and getting your “digital affairs” in order?

    18. Ultimately, where is everything? How are things to be handled? What are your wishes and what are theirs and how will these coincide to meet each of your goals?

    A family meeting that considers all these matters actually is an act of love. This list we provide can be your guide. It will help you prepare essential documents.

    Regarding “The Talk”, any family member can initiate it. You can name the time and place of the meeting. An invitation should be extended to everyone whom you believe is an important part of your life and now of your dying. Do this before you go to your estate lawyer to have your final documents drawn up. It will be a tremendous help for you.

    If your family feels overwhelmed by these anticipatory recommendations, this process, as we’ve suggested, can be aided by a skilled, experienced lawyer/mediator who can function as a “neutral” family facilitator.

    To insure that the professionals you engage, if you choose to do that, agree to guide you and not troll for legal referrals, they should not accept any requests for legal representation by any of the participants in the conversation.

    The following questions will help guide you and your family:

    1. Where is everything?

    2. What will need to be done?

    3. Who are the players?

    4. What are they willing to do to help?

    5. What are everyone’s thoughts and how can they work together to accomplish the common goals?

    6. How can the risk of disagreement, misunderstanding, stress, and financial issues be reduced?

    These planning meetings could also include those who you select as your executor and trustee (if applicable). You want everyone involved in your ending process to understand the process so that they can make the administration of events understandable. It will ease the process and make it as smooth as possible.

    Once we deal with our mortality the life we have can get better. Try it and see.

    Irving S. Capitel  Irving is a member of the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory (CTC).  He can be reached at 847-212-6611

    Allen Siegel   Allen  is a member of the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory (CTC).

    The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory

    Helping Families Flourish! The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory is a not-for-profit professional association helping families and their trusted advisors understand and manage their family trusts.

  • April 15, 2018 8:04 PM | Deleted user
    [Editor’s Note: Although the inheritance of an amount of money much larger than what one is used to is brimming with opportunities, the emotional upheaval caused by this type of financial transition requires a calm and cool response. This Chicago Trustee Collaboratory alumni details 6 important steps to take.]



    By Sheldon Zeiger JD, CFP®

    A trust beneficiary can find themselves receiving an amount of money much larger than what they are used to.  This windfall may come in the form of an inheritance or trust distribution. These life changing events are fraught with both opportunity and danger.   The opportunity is to go through this stressful financial transition and come out the other end better in terms of family, security and money. The danger is that this new found wealth will be squandered.

    The emotional upheaval caused by this type of financial transition requires a calm and cool response.  It requires a stabilization process where a beneficiary doesn’t make any decisions that they don’t have to.  It requires that they put their money in a safe haven so that they are given the time to make one good decision at a time.   Some have called this time period a decision free zone but this is a misnomer because this time period is packed with important decisions.  I call this crucial time of reflection an ACTIVE-PAUSE.

    What is an active pause? Buddhist’s describe an active pause as a meaningful pause where one can study his surroundings.  One can take stock in where one is, assess a problem, settle on a future course of behavior and determine life’s direction.   Taoism defines an active pause as a basic law of nature combining supreme activity and supreme relaxation.

    The active pause is the essence of your financial stabilization plan.  The decisions that you make during this planning process are essential in effectively dealing with your windfall. What are the phases of the active pause process

    1. Self-Reflection: The importance of self-knowledge is crucial.  Feel the emotions that your windfall brings. (Guilt, fear, elation etc…) Perhaps prayer or discussions with loved ones can bring clarity.  Therapy may be an important tool in examining your needs and desires.

    1. Goal Setting: What are my full range of possibilities both personally and financially?  You can probably do anything you want but not everything you want.

    1. Financial Team Building:  Trusted advisers, not yes men and women. Objective third parties who can tell you exactly what you have.  You need to find an attorney, CPA and financial planner. A team of experts who not only can give you sound advice but act as a buffer between you and the rest of the world.  Your financial team will also help you establish your goals.

    1. Financial Planning Process:  Create a written financial plan that is consistent with your objectives.  Your plan allows you to unify your personal and financial goals. A blueprint for making all future decisions.

    1. Personal Responsibility: Don’t give up control over your financial windfall.  Your financial life is your responsibility. You assess the risks and rewards of your choices and you make all final decisions. It all starts with your financial education.

    1. Have Some Fun:  Happiness is the ultimate currency. The active pause is not about denial. There is no reason not to have some fun during this process.  Using a small amount your windfall for a family vacation or buying a toy can help dedicate you to the process.

    You may ask yourself, how long should my active pause process take?  The answer is unique to every individual but some rules of thumb apply.   Long enough for you to decide what you really want. Long enough for you to create and embrace your financial plan.   Especially take as long as necessary to feel confident that you’re spending and investing with purpose. Your active pause creates an environment where you can make informed decisions regarding your life and your money.   

    Sheldon Zeiger JD, CFP®  is an accomplished professional with a diverse background encompassing legal practice, financial planning, corporate compliance and education. His focus is on building and maintaining long-term relationships. Sheldon has been a valued member of the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory (CTC).

    Author of: The Eye Inside Personal Finance: Discovering the Connection Between Our Financial and Spiritual Lives


    The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory

    Helping Families Flourish ! The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory  is a not-for-profit professional association helping families and their trusted advisors understand and manage their family trusts.

  • June 24, 2016 7:55 PM | Deleted user

    Playing by the rules isn’t enough in family trusts. Instead, a family benefits from defining what constitutes winning. That’s the message from the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory (“CTC”).  In this video clip from a recent CTC meeting, Daniel P. Felix sums up the thought. Dan is an attorney, a trustee and advisor to families, and current President of the CTC.

    The CTC continues to lead the discussion around building family trusts that work. The CTC has launched a quarterly series examining the components of successful private trusts. Developed in cooperation with the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (“IICLE”). For more information (including copies of DVD’s) click here:

    To view the video, click here.

  • June 14, 2016 6:58 PM | Deleted user

    Many find themselves having to discuss elder life planning under crisis circumstances.  This article explores how to lead inner circle family members through the critical questions that will inevitably need to be addressed, in a safe and organized way.  A comprehensive list of questions, covering the important issues is presented, with practical advice for addressing family members concerns.

    By Irv Capitel

    Click here to read article

  • May 24, 2016 6:38 PM | Deleted user

    A family can enjoy a successful trust by building Clarity, Consensus and Competence. That’s the message from the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory (“CTC”).  In this video clip from a recent CTC meeting, Daniel P. Felix sums up the thought. Dan is an attorney, a trustee and advisor to families, and current President of the CTC.

    Click here to view the video

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