Tips on Naming a Trustee

Selecting a trustee should be a thoughtful decision, taking into consideration the person’s ability to manage money and make decisions. Unfortunately, that’s not usually what happens.

A snap decision made so that documents can be prepared on a timely basis is not the way to pick a trustee. This person or persons will be making big decisions on your behalf, so you want to take the time to make the best possible choice.

You have to pick some people to help you out after you’re gone. In your will, you need to pick an executor, a guardian (if you have children), and a trustee. If you have a revocable or irrevocable trust, you need to designate a trustee, because he or she will control everything.

Wealth Advisors’ recent article, “Picking a Trustee – 4 Easy Steps,” explains that a trustee follows the instructions of the trust document. A trust can be created in your Will when you die and/or in a separate trust document while you’re alive. Either way, selecting a trustee is critical. A trustee has considerable authority, including:

  • The amount of money and when people receive it from the trust;
  • The investments allowed in the trust;
  • The ways to insulate the trust assets from bad people; and
  • Other complex trust accounting and administration rules.

You have two ways to go as far as choosing a trustee: an individual person or a trust company. Either one could be right for your situation, so there’s no one formula for a perfect trustee. However, there are a few differences between designating a person and a trust company as trustee, including the following:

  • An individual won’t charge a fee as trustee, while a trust company does.
  • An individual can abscond with trust assets, while a trust company has checks and balances, along with insurance.
  • An individual may let his own personal judgment get in the way of objectivity with beneficiaries, while a trust company legally can’t.
  • An individual will get older and may get sloppy with the trust rules; that is far less likely to happen with a trust company.
  • Trust rules, taxes and laws change, and a trust company’s focus is on those changes.

An estate planning attorney will be able to provide further recommendations as to what skills the trustees will need for their tasks, and discuss whether your situation would be best served with an individual or a trust company.

Reference: Wealth Advisors (November 19, 2017) “Picking a Trustee – 4 Easy Steps.”