Professional trustees – Getting things to change

Published July 14, 2016

One of the questions I’m most often asked by professional trustees is “How do I tell my trust clients that things need to change?”

If you feel things haven’t been done as well as they could have been in the past, resetting expectations can be daunting.

Two things spring to mind from a good practice perspective which may help professional trustees start the process.

1.  Separate the roles – don’t call co-trustees clients!

A professional trustee is not the same as a professional adviser.

Professionals must be clear in their own minds of the distinctions between the roles:

  • A professional advisory relationship is with a client.
  • A professional trustee relationship is with the co-trustee/s.

In an advisory relationship the client chooses whether to take the advice which has been given.  In a trustee relationship the professional trustee is an equal at the table.  It’s a decision-making role.

When you’re clear of the distinctions, its easier to help your clients or co-trustees be clearer.  Help them understand the distinctions between the roles and what hat you’re wearing at what time.

2.  Demonstrate to your co-trustee/s that things have changed

For things to change, professional trustees must lead the change.

Here’s three quick ways you can demonstrate things have changed:

  • Hold separate trustee meetings.  Keep them separate from other advisory meetings.
  • Set an agenda when you meet.  Good structure brings formality and discipline.
  • Separate advisory fees from trustee fees.  Treat professional trusteeship as a job and charge a professional fee.

If you need an example of an Annual Trustee Meeting & Review form, you can get one here.

Know what you stand for.  Start today.

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