One of the things you’ll have to do as you put together your estate plan is appoint fiduciaries to manage an assortment of tasks on your behalf once you pass away; or, even if you become unable to manage your own affairs while you’re still alive. If, like many people, you decide to use a trust as one of your estate planning tools, you’ll need to appoint a successor trustee. Many people ask if they should appoint co-trustees to manage their trust; two of their children, perhaps?
This is a very sensitive area, and there’s no one-size-fits –all answer. Whether or not co-trustees are a good idea really depends on the dynamics of your family, and the personalities of the potential trustees. While I can’t give you a blanket answer to the question, I can give you some points to consider:
- If your potential co-trustees don’t get along now, they’re really not going to get along after you’re gone. Siblings who can’t see eye-to-eye while their parents are living usually can’t find ways to peacefully handle conflict when their parents are no longer around to mediate; especially when there’s money or other property involved. What was once sibling rivalry has a way of boiling over into drawn-out court battles when co-trustees can’t agree on the simplest of decisions.
- On the other hand, co-trustees who work well together can draw on each other’s strengths to administer a trust extremely efficiently. One trustee with strong financial knowledge and another with superior organizational skills, working as a team, can make trust administration a breeze.
- Trustees who live far apart, even if they’re cooperative and well-meaning, can interfere with the efficient administration of your trust. The simple process of sending documents for multiple signatures, and communicating the same thing multiple times, is time consuming and lends itself to miscommunication.
- Having two capable and cooperative trustees can mean that your beneficiaries are more confident about how the trust is being administered, after all, there’s an extra set of eyes watching each and every decision. Plus, if one trustee is unavailable, chances are, the other can be reached to make a decision or answer a question.