Polarity Thinking: Critical Guidance for Family Trusts and Trustees - Part 2 of 5

Polarity Thinking: Critical Guidance for Family Trusts and Trustees - Part 2 of 5

The Core Polarity in the Trustscape: Balancing the Trust Creator's Wishes and the Needs of the Beneficiaries
Article posted in Values-Based on 4 June 2015| comments
Print
||
Rate:

Summary

Dan Felix continues his exploration of "polarity thinking" as it applies to trusts. This installment discusses the need to balance the beneficiaries' needs with the grantor's wishes.

By Daniel P. Felix, JD – © all rights reserved 2015

PART 2: THE CORE POLARITY IN THE TRUSTSCAPE: BALANCING THE TRUST CREATOR’S WISHES AND THE NEEDS OF THE BENEFICIARIES

Polarity is an essential trait of all things. Tension, contrast, and contradiction characterize all of reality. … To ignore the paradox is to miss the truth. – Abraham Joshua Heschel

The fundamental polarity in the trustscape is the trust’s need for honoring the wishes of the trust creator while simultaneously demanding empowerment of the beneficiary. The trust creator’s wishes are expressed in the trust and sometimes in directives and other documents. The trustee manifests these wishes often when the trust creator is no longer available because of disability or death.

Compare the scenario of a baby-sitter who references the parents’ note clipped to the family refrigerator. That baby-sitter is supposed to follow the parents’ directions. And she is also expected to be mindful of what the situation and needs of the babies are in following those directions. So, as one of the myriad examples, the baby is finally drinking her 5 o’clock bottle at 5:55pm. Should the baby go to sleep at the directed time of 6pm, even though the bottle is not finished? The note did not prioritize the directives. So what should the baby sitter do?

Like the baby-sitter, the trustee needs to employ practical wisdom in applying those writings to whatever situations she and the beneficiaries encounter.

And as with the situation of that baby-sitter, the trust best serves when it accomplishes both the wishes of the trust creator and the health of the beneficiaries.

Taking that step further: trust administration that addresses the needs of the beneficiaries only may well dishonor or even violate the wishes of the trust creator set out in the trust documents. On the other hand, ignoring the impact of the trust on the beneficiaries is a key source of friction and litigation – and why some 80% of trust beneficiaries consider their trusts to be a burden. In fact, the blind application of the trust creator’s document to the destruction of the beneficiaries exalts form over substance and in so doing, dishonors the trust creator’s typical (if too often merely implicit) intention to bless the beneficiaries.

Even without the lens of Polarity Thinking, good trust administration remains at least mindful of the impact on the beneficiaries. Think of the trustee as the captain of a ship with the trust document as his directions. In the act of navigating, the captain must necessarily also consider the impact of the ship’s wake as well as the health and safety of his crew. We would not have much respect for a captain who capsized other ships or abused his crew, even if he’s successful in bringing the ship to the appointed harbor. One expert has well identified this known negative problem as “The Trustee who Mistook his Checklist for Wisdom”.

Polarity Thinking can help a good trustee who is merely mindful to become a masterful trustee who administers the trust to improve the lives of the beneficiaries. More precisely, Polarity Thinking helps make possible the professional, dynamic balancing of this interdependent pair of considerations of honoring the wishes of the trust creator and empowering the beneficiaries.

In Part 3 of this article, MAPPING THE CORE POLARITY IN THE TRUSTSCAPE, we’ll go deeper to diagram the situation –- and productive approaches.

___

The author gratefully acknowledges the generous and gracious support and help of Barry Johnson, founder and principal of Polarity Partnerships, LLC, and his colleague, Susan Dupre.

See www.PolarityPartnerships.com. The author also gratefully acknowledges the editing help of collaborator, Neesa Sweet, Braided River Group, www.braidedrivergroup.com.

 

ADDITIONAL INSTALLMENTS:

First: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO POLARITY THINKING 

Second: THE CORE POLARITY IN THE TRUSTSCAPE: BALANCING THE TRUST CREATOR’S WISHES AND THE NEEDS OF THE BENEFICIARIES

Third: MAPPING THE CORE POLARITY IN THE TRUSTSCAPE

Fourth: A FEW OTHER REGULARLY APPEARING POLARITIES IN THE TRUSTSCAPE

Fifth: CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE PRACTICE OF POLARITY THINKING IN THE TRUSTSCAPE

Add comment

Login or register to post comments

Comments

Group details

Follow

RSS

This group offers an RSS feed.
 
7520 Rates: October 2.2% September 2.4% August 2.4%

Already a member?

Learn, Share, Gain Insight, Connect, Advance

Join Today For Free!

Join the PGDC community and…

  • Learn through thousands of pages of content, newsletters and forums
  • Share by commenting on and rating content, answering questions in the forums, and writing
  • Gain insight into other disciplines in the field
  • Connect – Interact – Grow
  • Opt-in to Include your profile in our searchable national directory. By default, your identity is protected

…Market yourself to a growing industry