Critical Advice when Selecting a Trustee

Creating an estate plan is not easy. That’s just one of the many reasons why people delay planning for the future. One of the common challenges that people must solve is deciding who to appoint as a personal representative/trustee. Pick incorrectly and there is a substantial risk that the goals you have for your trust might not be fully achieved. The individual that you ultimately select to perform this role must be honest, but also a good communicator and diligent. If you’ve decided to appoint multiple trustees, you also need to make sure that all trustees get along together. This article reviews some of the important qualities that you should make sure that a candidate meets when selecting a trustee. 


Understand what a Trustee’s Job Involves


Before selecting a trustee, it is a wise idea to make sure that the individual is okay with the various tasks that a trustee must perform. The tasks involved with the job include:


  • Answer messages from beneficiaries about inheritances
  • Corresponding with beneficiaries, who might be unhappy with how distributions are handled
  • Invest assets from the trust and avoid losing money
  • Manage family arguments and disagreements
  • Provide accounting to beneficiaries and any other information they request


If you have trouble naming a person, remember that it is possible to name multiple people to function in this role. Regardless of who you name, it is important to understand that you must name someone to function in this role. You should also make sure that everyone else who will be impacted by your estate plan understands that the individual will be functioning in this role.


Be Cautious about Selecting a Family Member


Many clients decide to name a spouse or child as a trustee. Before selecting a family member as a trustee, it is a wise idea to ask yourself many important questions including the relationship that your children and spouse have with one another, how one of your children would react to finding out that another person in the family was a trustee, and whether anyone in the family would immediately demand the entirety of their distribution from the trustee. While your family members will be more familiar with your goals, the risk of family conflict sometimes outweighs these advantages. 


If you do not believe that any of your family members would be able to peacefully function as a trustee, you should consider naming a professional to fulfill this position. Professional trustees bring not just experience but also professionalism and objectivity in performing their role. If you decide to name a family member despite the risk of fighting, you should consider also appointing a third party neutral trust protector who can oversee the situation and help to resolve any disagreement that might arise.  


Speak with a Seasoned Estate Planning Lawyer

One of the most challenging parts with trusts is picking the appropriate trustee. If you need additional assistance creating a trust, it can help to retain the assistance of an experienced estate planning lawyer. Contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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