One year ago today I was fresh from my honeymoon (my wife and I were married in October of 2013) and was anxiously starting the first day of my new law practice.

A couple hundred meetings, ninety lattes, 7,500 miles on my car, 850 twitter posts, countless presentations and lunches, and somehow it’s already been a year.

I’ve been looking back over the past twelve months and I just can’t believe the incredible people I have met. Clients, financial professionals, attorneys, and dedicated networkers make up my workday, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for each and every one of you. I am excited to re-connect with all of you this year, and together we will all have an amazing 2015.

And of course, thank you to my wife Mary and for all of her support, I couldn’t do this without you.

Phil

creates wills and trusts for families who want to feel secure that their loved ones are cared-for. Philip is a trust and estate attorney based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Philip is the author of Trustee University: The Guidebook to Best Practices for Family Trustees, available at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle edition (free chapter available here!). He also works with trustees and beneficiaries who need help with their trusts. You can contact him here.

cover4_1 lowI spent the first six years of my post-law school life working as a professional trustee — first for a large national bank, then for a smaller boutique trust company. I learned so much from these experiences that it’s difficult to pinpoint any specific point where I really felt like I truly understood trusts . . . what motivates grantors to create them, what considerations attorneys must take into account when drafting them, and what a trustee truly needs to understand when managing one. But I can tell you this: the learning process was one that took years. Not weeks or months, but a years-long process that involved reviewing and discussing with my colleagues thousands of trust documents. I’ve since written articles for legal journals around the country about various trust rules, laws, and proposed laws. Yet still I find myself regularly looking up trust statutes and best practices while hoping to find a positive resolution for my clients.

I am always impressed when an individual steps up to act as the trustee of a trust. The trustee is the trust’s “CEO” — the person who manages the assets, decides what distributions to make, keeps records, sends statements, ensures tax returns are filed, et cetera. In short, a big job which is typically done for free by someone known personally by the grantor (the grantor is the person that created the trust with a lawyer). Trustees can (and in many cases should) be professionals, but more often than not, they are family members of the grantor with little or no experience. What takes a professional years to learn becomes the immediate responsibility of this family member. I really admire that family member’s willingness to step up and do the job.

The down side to being an inexperienced trustee may be obvious. I’ve worked with many who found themselves over their heads  . . . angry beneficiaries, outdated records, delinquent taxes, under-performing or under-diversified investments . . . you name it, I’ve probably seen it. I’ve been asked by other attorneys how their client can learn to be a trustee so that they might avoid these frequent problems. Not having a ready answer, I decided to write a thirty page brochure discussion this topic.

Thirty pages turned into 300 (free chapter here). I hope this book will help family members to better understand what is involved in the management of a trust, what they need to do when taking on this important responsibility, and how better to communicate with beneficiaries. Importantly, the book discusses the various professionals a trustee may need to hire (investment professionals, attorneys, accountants, and professional co-trustees). These professionals have every expectation that their clients understand the trusts they are working on; I hope this book will help.

creates wills and trusts for families who want to feel secure that their loved ones are cared-for. Philip is a trust and estate attorney based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Philip is the author of Trustee University: The Guidebook to Best Practices for Family Trustees. available at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle edition (free chapter available here!) He also works with trustees and beneficiaries who need help with their trusts. You can contact him here.

Welcome to Stone Arch Law

It’s been a ten-year process, and I am so excited to announce the opening of Stone Arch Law Office, PLLC.  This is my first blog post, so I thought I might tell you a little about me and how Stone Arch Law came to be.  I’d also like to take a moment to thank my wonderful wife (her name is Mary, and you’ll probably be hearing a lot about her) for her support as I work to make this dream a reality.

In 2003, I was working for TCF Bank in their (now defunct) investments and insurance department.  I started out selling annuities, but I eventually joined the compliance area. I worked with banking clients to make sure they understood their mutual fund, stock, bond, or annuity purchases.  Many — if not most — of my established clients were at a place in their lives where they were considering whether they needed to have a will or a trust.  I had no idea how to answer their questions, and soon found myself making calls around the city to find some local attorneys who could help them.  I began to (and, indeed, still do) see estate planning as an extension of a responsible financial plan; it was through this process that I realized I wanted to go to law school, and that I wanted to create estate plans for Minnesota families.  I was going to be a lawyer, and was going to open my own practice.

Well, bad news for any aspiring law students out there — law school is a wonderfully intellectual experience, but even a school that emphasizes ‘practical wisdom’ won’t give you everything you need to start from scratch (and my hat is off to those who make a go of it right out of school).  Compound this with (another) crashing economy in 2008 and a miraculous job offer from a large national bank in its estate and trust department, and I found myself managing the trust funds of families and their beneficiaries.  I can’t explain how valuable my time as a professional trustee was to my understanding of the law, family dynamics, and every aspect of estate planning, but I’ll be telling some stories in future blog posts, and I think you’ll find the stories to be pretty informative (and entertaining).

Welcome to Stone Arch Law Office.  It’s been a long time coming, and now that it’s a reality, I can’t wait to work with you.  Please contact me through the website or give me a call . . . you’ll know my story, and I would love to hear yours.

Phil

creates wills and trusts for families who want to feel secure that their loved ones are cared-for. Philip is a trust and estate attorney based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Philip is the author of Trustee University: The Guidebook to Best Practices for Family Trustees. available at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle edition (free chapter available here!) He also works with trustees and beneficiaries who need help with their trusts. You can contact him here.

Keywords: trusts and estates, Minnesota wills, revocable trusts, estate attorney, probate, estate planning, will