If you have a trust as part of your estate plan, you will need to select someone, whether it be a friend, family member, or colleague, to serve as the trustee. This is a critical step because the trustee is obligated to ensure that your trust is administered in accordance to your wishes.
What Exactly Does a Trustee Do?
The trustee is the manager of your trust assets. The rules and guidelines a trustee must follow are contained within the trust document you created. The trust effectively tells the trustee who will benefit from the trust, when those beneficiaries will receive distributions, and generally contains other rules to instruct the trustee of their duties.
Trust Creator and/or Beneficiary as Trustee
When a trust is formed, the trust creator (i.e. you) can be self-designated as the trustee until your death or incapacity. You can also designate a beneficiary as the trustee and stipulate that they will assume this position upon your passing. At the time of your death, the individual or institution that you named to take over will be deemed the “successor” trustee to manage your trust assets.
Importance of Selecting the Right Trustee
The individual or institution you name as the successor trustee needs to be carefully considered. If you select someone who proves to be unreliable, or unethical, it can cause serious harm to your trust. Below are some factors to consider when selecting a trustee:
- Sufficient Skills to Handle the Position – Trustees need to have a thorough understanding of the trust terms and applicable regulations, know how to successfully manage assets, and be able to effectively deal with your beneficiaries. This is why basing your decision solely on the closeness of your relationship to someone is not recommended. You should consider the individual’s background to assess whether they can effectively handle this position or if they would be susceptible to undue influence or make unethical/poor decisions in the management of your trust.
- Impartiality – Your trustee will act as a fiduciary, meaning they will have a legal duty to manage the trust with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind without favoring certain beneficiaries over others and without engaging in self-serving action. Whoever you select needs to be ready to exercise impartiality in this position.
- Willingness to accept the position of trustee – Serving as a trustee can be a difficult and time-consuming responsibility, depending on the complexity of your estate, the litigiousness of your beneficiaries, and so forth. This is why you need to make sure the chosen individual is willing to take on the responsibility.
Contact a St. Charles Trust Attorney Today
If you need advice in choosing a trustee or simply want to discuss how a trust may benefit you and your family, do not hesitate to contact Polaris Law Group and St. Charles trust and estate lawyers Scott Stork and Raymond Chandler. Schedule a meeting with Scott or Raymond today by phone or by filling out a quick contact form.