Cannon Financial Institute

Which Requires the Most Extensive Training? A Dog Walker, a Manicurist, or a Personal Trust Trustee


Obviously, the requirements to be a dog walker are simple. All you need is the ability to walk and an affinity for dogs, right? Actually, you probably need a business license and since you are going in and out of people’s homes, you will probably want to be bonded. Most brand name dog walking businesses are.

Liability insurance is also important. If you are walking a dog on a long leash and the dog inexplicably bites someone you want to be protected if you are sued. There are many other issues. In fact, the Dog Walking Agreement and Guide from LegalZoom is eight pages long and doesn’t include the legal agreement. *

What about a certification? Not required but it looks good on your list of qualifications. If you want to be a certified dog professional, you can take a four-day course leading to this certification at different locations around the country. The cost is $850.00.**

OK. That seems a bit extensive just to walk dogs. What about being a manicurist? All one must know is how to give a manicure. Right? Not exactly. To work in a high-level beauty salon as a nail technician, that is, a manicurist, you will need to pass the written Nail Technician Licensing Examination, given by the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC). ***  Before you laugh, let me say I read some of the sample questions and concluded there are valid reasons one of the most popular study guides is 128 pages long and costs $50.97 plus shipping.

What about the qualifications to serve as the trustee or a personal trust and/or executor of someone’s estate? This can be an onerous task requiring extensive knowledge of trusts and estates. Presumably to serve in this position one must have some legal and financial training, have passed a certification exam, and register with the state. Therefore, serving as a trustee must require substantially more training than being a dog walker or manicurist.  

Unfortunately, this is not the case. What qualifications must an individual possess to be a trustee? The willingness to act. That’s all. The person doesn’t have to take a licensing exam to act as a trustee or executor because there isn’t one.  Background check? No. Knowledge of legal and financial issues a trustee will be confronted with? No. Registration with the state? No. A minimum standard of education? No. You don’t even need to be literate as we shall see.

Anyone can serve as trustee of a personal trust and/or executor of an estate and anyone has. A year prior to her death in 1993, tobacco heiress Doris Duke named her butler, Bernard Lafferty, as co-executor of her 1.2-billion-dollar estate and as one of a small number of trustees of her charitable trust. An article which appeared in the New York Times on 11 April 1996, alleged that Mr. Lafferty (who died in November of 1996) was “an admitted alcoholic and barely literate.” In addition, that same article alleged that Mr. Lafferty “moved into her (Doris Duke’s) mansions and traveled around in her chauffeured Cadillac and her private Boeing 737 at estate expense.”

Did lawsuits come riding? Yes, like a brigade of cavalry. According to the same article in the New York Times, dozens of accusations were made against Mr. Lafferty including several of a most scandalous nature. Legal wrangling between interested parties went on for thirty months and eventually involved more than forty lawyers from ten different firms.  At the end of that time, all parties reached a settlement approved by the court.

Mr. Lafferty received a handsome settlement from the estate and in return, he resigned his posts as co-executor of Ms. Duke’s estate and as a trustee of the Doris Duke Charitable Trust. While Mr. Lafferty may have acted poorly, all allegations against him were withdrawn. Did he do something illegal? Impossible to say since none of the allegations were followed up.

I think we would all agree that Ms. Duke should have given more thought about whom she chose to carry out the duties of settling her estate. Yet over the years, I have seen people spending more time researching the options and prices of a new car they want to buy than selecting a trustee for their personal trusts. This is where you as an FA must step in and acquaint your client with the damage an incompetent trustee can do. 

You further need to impress upon your client that the person they choose to succeed them as trustee must know what they are doing. Selecting the right person to supervise and distribute your wealth for the benefit of your loved ones is far, far more important than saving $500 on a new Mercedes.

If your client selects an individual as trustee they need to vet this person as thoroughly as possible and be guided by the principle of caveat emptor— let the buyer beware.

To learn more about this topic, register for our Cannon Trust I curriculum. 

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Contributing Writer: Subject Matter Expert Charles McCain

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