Why Hiring a Corporate Trustee Can Save Your Family

Couple Holding Hands

Several years ago, my friend Deirdre lost her mom. Deirdre and her older sister, Caroline, had always been close, but it all changed when Caroline stepped into the role of trustee and executor of their mother’s estate. Suddenly, the two sisters could not seem to agree on anything, including funeral arrangements, their mom’s real estate holdings and the division of her personal items such as jewelry, artwork and even household appliances. The two sisters ended up going court to settle, but the damage to their relationship was so deep and raw that they are now estranged.

“Sometimes when there’s money involved, things get tricky,” says Emily Menjou, Vice President and Personal Trust Fiduciary Manager for Exchange Bank, referring to the strife that families can face when carrying out the terms of a trust, especially when there’s a loss of a loved one. “Estate settlements are complicated and can take an average of 12 months to complete. Not only are there significant legal and tax implications, but it’s also difficult because people are in mourning and family dynamics can cause conflicts to arise.”

Menjou leads the personal trust team at Exchange Bank, an established Northern California-based financial institution that opened its first office in Marin in mid-2023. She has worked in the fiduciary services industry since 2002 and has seen more than her fair share of families struggle with carrying out the terms of a trust. She points out that bringing an experienced, professional trustee into the mix can be a game changer for families who establish trusts to pass wealth from generation to generation. Corporate trustees are neutral third parties who can navigate the complexities of trusts and estate settlements in a way that follows the rules while helping to minimize family conflict.

This is less robotic than it sounds. “We are caring professionals who understand this is a very personal process for our families, so sometimes, we’re a shoulder to cry on,” Menjou says. “Other times we have to say, that’s not how it works, this is how it works. While every case is different, we are the consistent guide to help families achieve financial success.”

Beyond settling one’s estate, trusts can dictate how money is managed for minors, those with special needs or individuals incapable of making sound decisions. In each situation, a corporate trustee can do the heavy lifting to keep everything in order.

Emily and Debbie, Exchange Bank

“No two families are exactly alike in terms of their needs, their assets, or the players involved, but one commonality is that no parent wants to see their family fall apart over money” adds Menjou, pictured above with her Marin colleague Debbie. “Because Exchange Bank has been providing this service since 1963, our trust team has encountered almost every scenario imaginable. We’ve become true experts at navigating complicated situations with a personal touch, allowing families to focus on being family.” 

For more info on Exchange Bank and its trust and investment services in Marin County, please visit exchangebank.com or call 415-259-6940. 

Exchange Bank Trust and Investment products are not FDIC insured. Not a bank deposit. Not insured by any federal government agency. No bank guarantee. May go down in value. Always consult with your independent attorney or tax advisor before making any tax-related financial decision, or changing or implementing any financial, tax or estate planning strategy.