How to Choose a Trustee
As you complete your estate plan, there are several big decisions you have to make. First, you have to choose an executor for your estate. Then, if you’re a parent, you also select a legal guardian to care for your minor children upon your death. Another essential part of estate planning is choosing a trustee. An executor and trustee are similar, but there are specific qualifications you should consider for a trustee. Here is an overview of a trustee’s responsibilities and crucial tips for how to choose a trustee.
What does a trustee do?
Before we dive into how to choose a trustee, let’s briefly discuss what the role of a trustee entails. There are different types of trusts like revocable living trust and irrevocable trust, but they all need a trustee. Of course, the specific responsibilities will vary based on the size, instructions, and other details of the trust. But, generally speaking, there are particular roles that all trustees fill.
A trustee is in charge of managing the assets of a trust. Various circumstances could lead someone to open a trust, but no matter what, the trustee must act in the trust’s best interest. A trustee’s role becomes critical after the settlor, the one who owns or funds the trust, dies.
For example, a common reason for a trust is when a parent leaves money to their minor children. The parent will name a trustee to manage the trust on behalf of the children if the parent dies. Ideally, the parents will leave specific instructions in the trust, like money for a car when they turn 16 or how much money is allotted for college. There may even be instructions for how to invest the money in the trust. The role of the trustee would then be to manage the funds in the trust and ensure it’s being used according to the trust’s instructions.
Now with a better understanding of what’s expected from a trustee, it should get you thinking about possible candidates for this role. Keep reading for qualities you should look for in a good trustee.
Essential Qualities for a Trustee
Florida law allows you a lot of freedom to choose a trustee. Your trustee does not have to live in Florida, and it can be a relative, friend, or professional representative. This is a very broad scope of options for a trustee. You should take time to consider who could be a trustee because they will manage your life’s hard work that you place in a trust. Let’s dive into the qualities you should look for in a potential trustee
Trustworthiness is the most important quality for a trustee. A trustee is legally obligated to act in the best interest of the trust and beneficiaries, but the trust administration is much easier when the trustee is reliable and trustworthy.
- Good Judgement
Your trustee doesn’t have to be a legal or financial expert, but they should have a basic understanding of money management and investing. Communicate the instructions in your trust before you complete it so your trustee fully understands what’s required and can ask questions. Another wise question to ask yourself is if this trustee can maintain good judgment through any complex family dynamics.
Trusts require the time and attention of your trustee. The specific nature of your trust will determine the level of responsibility for your trustee, but generally speaking, this will be a part of your trustee’s life when it’s administered. When you choose a trustee, ensure they are dedicated to giving these responsibilities the needed time and energy.
One last note on choosing a trustee, it’s wise and expected to evaluate your trustee every few years or as your season of life changes. Just like you would update your will as your kids get older, sometimes life’s demands change for either you or your chosen trustee. So keep open communication with the trustee you select and make adjustments as needed.
Merriman Law Firm is Your Trust & Estate Planning Experts
When you decide to set up a trust, whether simple or complex, the professionals at Merriman Law are here to assist and counsel you. We can help with your entire estate planning, creating wills, setting up trusts, and answering any questions about trustees. Our firm wants you to have confidence and peace of mind with your estate planning, so we use our expert experience to help make it a smooth and straightforward process.
Merriman Law Firm has experience assisting successor trustees with revocable living trust administration, plus counseling and representing trustees in irrevocable trust administration. Our professionals also have successful experience with trust litigation. Whatever your trust needs are, contact Merriman Law Firm for a free consultation.