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Advice for choosing a trustee

Those in the Kent area who are working on their estate plan may find that setting up a trust is a good idea for their family. A revocable trust is a common estate planning tool for those in Kent, and setting one up requires naming a trustee.

Choosing a trustee for a revocable trust is something that a person may take for granted, but it is a very important role. In a revocable trust, when the first spouse dies, the other spouse usually becomes the sole trustee. It is when the second spouse passes away that a successor trustee comes into play. Choosing that trustee is important. Children are often named as a successor trustee. This can work well if this isn't a divorce situation, there is only one child, the child lives nearby, and all the assets are investments. A trustee job can be time-consuming, though, and if a child is chosen as a successor trustee they may be struggling with their grief and would thus may not be able to handle the additional burden of dealing with the estate.

Other choices for a trustee can include trusted friends. Having a friend be the trustee can be extremely time-consuming for them, especially if there is real estate or other non-cash assets involved. There should also be provisions in the trust that provides the friend compensation for their time and effort. A professional fiduciary, which is someone who has experience with a trust and does this job on a regular basis, may be a better choice. A professional fiduciary is not emotionally tied to the situation and is required to have the best interests of the beneficiaries as their primary goal. Banks can also act as a trustee for an estate. If the primary amount of assets is held in the bank, then the bank may be a good choice. A bank's fees may be higher, though, and they have very strict guidelines to follow. But if a person believes the beneficiaries of their estate may cause problems, having a bank or professional fiduciary is often the best choice for trustee.

Once a trustee is chosen, they should be asked, notified and provided with a copy of the trust. A legal professional who specializes in estate planning can help their client set up a trust and offer suggestions as to who a good trustee may be.

Source: The Press-Enterprise, "Women on money and mindset: Estate planning: choosing a trustee", Tami Sipos, Sept. 2, 2017

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