Tips for Choosing the Right Successor Trustee

Tips for Choosing the Right Successor Trustee

If you draft a revocable living trust as part of your estate plan, you likely named yourself as the trustee to allow yourself to continue managing your affairs until you are unable to do so, whether due to incapacity or death. Once that point arrives, someone else will need to step in to fulfill the duties of the trustee. This person is called a “successor trustee,” and who takes on that role is up to you.

Your chosen successor trustee should be someone you trust implicitly. After all, they will be taking full control over your finances, making decisions on your behalf if still alive and executing your trust according to your wishes after you pass. There will be no court supervision over your successor trustee, which is beneficial in that it allows your affairs to be handled privately and more efficiently. It also means your successor trustee must be a person capable of being a self-starter and handling all the matters associated with your trust without legal oversight.

Below are a few factors to consider when choosing your successor trustee:

  • Relation to you: You can choose your adult children, a trusted friend or a corporate trustee, such as a bank or a trust company. If you choose a person, make sure you have a backup trustee in case your first choice is unable to act.
  • Your assets: Consider the number and type of assets in your trust and how complex the provisions of your trust are. For example, if you wish to hold assets in your trust after your death for some beneficiaries, the trustee would have additional responsibilities spread out for a longer period of time. You need to choose someone who is capable of this long-term commitment in such a circumstance.
  • Qualifications: How qualified is your potential trustee? Consider their personality, any business or financial experience they have and the time they can commit to the role.
  • Desire: Is this a role your chosen trustee would actually want? You should have a frank discussion about this with them before naming them your successor trustee.
  • Personality: Some people are just not cut out to be a trustee. You should choose someone who is willing to seek professional help and advice.  Trustees have legal and taxation responsibilities of which most individual trustees are uninformed.  Also, your trustee must recognize he or she must be open to the beneficiaries.  Someone who might feel that since they are in charge now it is none of the beneficiaries’ business as to how the trustee is managing trust business has the wrong attitude to serve as trustee.

For further guidance on choosing a successor trustee, meet with a skilled Tampa estate planning lawyer at BaumannKangas Estate Law.