When a family tragedy strikes it is natural to turn to friends and family for support, be that emotional or practical. However, as far as finances are concerned an impartial observer may be a preferable option to avoid the temptations that come with access to large sums of money.
Take the case of Melaney Watson: she was on a low income and was appointed as a trustee and guardian to the teenage son of friends who died within a few months of one another. She had no experience of managing significant funds and, it would appear, little legal guidance to assist her. Sadly she succumbed to the temptation of easy access to cash and spent some £60,000 of her charge's inheritance within a couple of years of his parents' deaths. Inevitably she was caught and received a custodial sentence as a result.
Whilst it was understandable that parents want someone whom they and their offspring know and trust to care for them after their deaths, the management of any resulting trust fund is often best left to experienced professionals who can monitor and supervise spending, who are bound by professional codes of conduct and, if else fails, are covered by adequate insurance.
A professional trustee can act alongside friends or family to ensure that funds are properly invested, property maintained and insured, tax and legal compliance requirements adhered to and accounts produced annually to evidence any spending.
In the words of Jonathan Swift, " A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart."
A trustee of a teenage orphan’s inheritance who helped herself to up to £60,000 of the boy’s money has been jailed for two years and three months.