Professional trusteeship – when less can be more

Published September 22, 2016

When I’m told someone has a family trust, I always ask if they have a professional trustee. Where they do, I then ask what are they paying them? The answer is generally “nothing”, or “I don’t know”.

Here’s two observations I’d make about professional trustees not charging for their services.

Often the professional has a perception the client won’t be willing to pay for the service.  Sometimes it may be due to a lack of time or, it may be the professional feels too close to the client to raise the issue.  It’s a decision to ignore the problem and carry the risk.

In other cases, you might have one of those clients who doesn’t like paying for anything. They’re probably the ones who don’t involve their professional trustee in decisions of the trust. They’re also the one most likely to complain if things go wrong.

I think most people accept there’s risk inherent in any commercial activity. I’ve also found that people don’t value what they get for nothing.

The trick is to balance potential risk against the potential reward.

A professional trusteeship that doesn’t involve an exchange of value can’t qualify as “professional”.

How do you fix things where you haven’t charged enough historically?

The first step can take a bit of courage. That’s because, you need to start a conversation where:

  • you may decide to exit as a trustee, or
  • the client may ask you to go.

Whatever the decision, if you follow through, it’s a WIN!

However, don’t be surprised if the conversation works out well for both parties.

I’ve found when you invest time to educate people on the role of a good trustee, it’s easier to reset the terms of engagement.

The hardest part can be ignoring the voice in your head telling you not to start the conversation.

When you do exit unrewarding relationships, you get your time back to invest in more productive ones.

Less can be more!

Trust good practice.

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