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Why having a bank serve as trustee may be necessary for some families

Battles over control of trusts and estate are not reserved to families where billion dollar fortunes are at stake. Even families with modest wealth can experience legal complications. Perhaps this is why the choice of whom to select as executor or trustee is a very important aspect of good estate planning. When somebody is chosen who is not right for the job, trust funds may become spent in legal fees and court battles, making for less to go around at distribution.

A good example of how such disputes can play out in wealthier families can be seen in the lives of Georgia Inman and Walker Patterson Inman III, the last living heirs to the Duke family fortune. Despite the massive amount of wealth the two inherited, they were recently suspended from a private school in Utah because of $25,000 in unpaid tuition and late fees.

The twins’ late father, Walker P. Inman, Jr., was Doris Duke’s nephew. During his divorce proceedings with Daisha, he reported in court records that the children were to inherit around one billing dollars when they turn 21. Trust funds for the twins are being managed by JPMorgan Chase and Citibank. The banks, however, have been rather tight-fisted in granting Daisha’s financial requests, as it fears that the trusts may be depleted before the children turn 21 if those requests are granted.

It is hard to be that such large trust funds could be depleted, but the reason for the banks’ stinginess may be because of the bitter custody and visitation dispute over the twins following the couple’s divorce. Though the children are no longer subject to custody battles, it is clear that they’ve been negatively affected by all the family fighting, enough so that the banks are very cautious with granting Daisha’s financial request.

Sometimes it is a good thing to have a neutral third party, like a bank, manage a family trust fund.

Source: Forbes, “Duke Heirs Caught In Billion-Dollar Fortune Battle,” Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, February 8, 2013