Stories from the Field:



A few years ago, we became trustee for two young women. They were cousins to one another, and their grandfather had provided funds upon his death which were intended to provide for their college educations.  If each could attain a bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating high school, each would receive a full distribution of their respective shares, a tidy sum large enough to provide a nice start toward a promising financial future.  If either one failed to complete her degree within the designated time, that beneficiary would forfeit her expected remaining inheritance.

Unique Challenges

The challenge we faced, unknown to us at the outset, is that each beneficiary to varying degrees did not come from a home that was terribly supportive of their efforts.  Essentially, each one was forced to travel her own journey without guidance or encouragement.  Each beneficiary, whether because of pride, shame, or a cynical reluctance to believe that anyone really cared about  them or their future, or a combination of all three, was not initially responsive to our efforts to help them achieve success by satisfying the trust requirements.

A Call to Action

When it became clear to us that these obstacles were in play, we jumped into action.  We spent considerable time with each, mapping out their educational goals and timelines, we worked with them on budgeting for a lifestyle that could support disciplined studying, and we worked directly with their schools to foster communication and accountability.  Driven by a purpose to see them succeed, our team adopted the cause as a concerned parent would. We showed each of these young women that we truly cared about them.


As of this writing, we have seen one of the two beneficiaries successfully attain her degree and receive her inheritance.  Her cousin is expected to receive her degree next May, and all signs indicate that she is on track toward that goal.  We have told each of these two young women that, if desired, we can remain on the scene to provide some financial advice that may prove helpful.  And of course, we have constantly shared with them our proud feelings for how hard they’ve worked. Cases like this remind us of why we do what we do.

A Perfect Match

A Comprehensive and Customized Service Plan

A beneficiary whom I will always remember with warmth and affection was Bob[1], a senior with developmental disabilities.  For many years, our firm provided Bob with both financial fiduciary services—he was a beneficiary of his late mother’s trust—as well as care management functions by checking in on him and ensuring that his in-home caregiver had the resources necessary to ensure that Bob maintained reasonably good health in the wake of major surgery that he underwent a few years prior.

I personally adored this man. Not only did he possess the gentleness and innocence of a child, but he was also a big baseball fan!  I easily and willingly adapted to our firm’s tradition of taking him to a yearly San Francisco Giants game.

Over a period of several years, Bob had forged a close bond with his caregiver, so much so that on some holidays she asked—and we permitted—Bob to accompany her to spend Christmas holidays at her family home in another region of California.

Depleting Resources and Pivoting Toward a Solution

In our earlier years of caring for Bob, we needed to expand his resources by securing a reverse mortgage for him.  Subsequently, the monthly expenditure of having an in-home caregiver quickly depleted much of his remaining funds. Rather than try to refinance the reverse mortgage, only to face what was the certain prospect of depleting Bob’s funds even further, we worked with his caregiver to coordinate a plan for having Bob’s case transferred to the county where our caregiver’s family home was located. We asked the court for permission to make this move, and we worked with the local Regional Center in the new county to transfer Bob’s public, in-home support benefits to that new county.  We continued to check in on him afterwards with a combination of regular telephone calls and site visits.

This development was a win-win for everyone. Our beneficiary was already familiar with, and therefore comfortable, in his new home. His caregiver would no longer have to commute from far away during her periods off work and could be closer to her own family, and we were able to apply our beneficiary’s resources toward paying a reasonable rent.  His trust recognized a nice profit from the sale of the home where he had been living, thus ensuring a stable, predictable, and ample level of funding for the remainder of his life.


I am proud and grateful that Bob spent his final year living in a setting that was supportive, comfortable, loving, and enduring.  When Bob passed away last year, I was asked to eulogize this wonderful man, who had such an angelic spirit, at his funeral.  It was a small gesture for the many gifts he gave me during his life.

Cases like this remind us of why we do what we do.

[1] Name changed to protect confidentiality.