My mother recently passed away and her will includes a testamentary trust for a portion of the estate designated for her grandchildren. Unfortunately, the terms of this trust seem to unfairly benefit my children vs. my brother's, which is creating family drama -- so much so that extended family (cousins) designated as trustees want to refuse to get involved. My brother and I are aligned on a more equitable arrangement (with which the trustees concur) but my initial research indicates that testamentary trusts must be followed exactly.
The trust is for the benefit of five grandchildren: Two from my brother, presently age 27 and 22, and my three children, ages 17, 13, and 11. However, rather than equal distribution, the trust specifies the following (excerpting some of the exact legal language):
- for the benefit of any one or more of the living benficiaries
- for their health, and education (including room and board)
- without the necessity of equalization among them at any time
Education is more fully defined in another paragraph and largely applies to tuition, room, board, books, etc. at an accredited college, university, or trade school. The trustee has "absolute discretion" but is advised to "consider all funds or resources available to a beneficiary".
When the youngest beneficiary is 21, the trust is to be divided into two trusts (no specific split percentage is mentioned) based on children of myself and my brother, from which income is paid at the trustee's discretion to the children until the youngest of each of these two trusts reaches age 25, at which point the trust(s) terminate with equal division.
As written, the trust would seem to possibly unfairly benefit me/my children:
- My brother's children have both graduated college, and do not plan to pursue postgraduate education
- His two children's college was funded primarily through Pell Grants; they do not have student loans
- My three children do have college coming up (the first next year!) and my income precludes any significant financial assistance, but is not enough to avoid taking out loans
Obviously there's no clear cut "need" and the "absolute discretion" allows the trustee to make that judgment (which our relatives don't want to have to make.)
Everyone (my brother, myself, trustees) would love to just equally split the benefits to all five grandchildren; however, there does not seem to be a way to do that within the constraints established. Even if we "designated" 60% to be disbursed to my children and supported their college, we would have to wait 10 years until my youngest child reaches age 21 before we could "divide" the trust (100% to my brother's children, 0% to mine) to pay out to the other beneficiaries.
One thought I've had to reduce family drama is to request the trustees disburse all the funds for my own children's education and simply gift my brother's children their "share".
Are there any other legal ways of overriding the specific instructions of the will with a more equitable distribution that everyone involved (and alive) agrees with?