When you’re establishing a trust, you’ll need to choose an initial trustee, and at least one successor trustee. Especially in the case of a Living Trust, you’ll most likely serve as initial trustee, and you’ll likely name your spouse to serve as successor trustee. But what if you’re not married, or you know that your spouse is not the best choice? In this case, you’ll want to choose your successor trustee wisely.
Once your successor trustee steps into that role, it’s not easy to get him or her removed. This is not to say it’s impossible. If your successor trustee is incompetent or commits a serious breach of trust, or in certain other situations, a judge can remove your successor trustee. However, this takes court action and only happens under serious circumstances.
So, what steps can you take to help ensure the successor trustee you choose is the right person for the job? Pick someone with the following qualities:
- Loyalty: Your successor trustee will need to follow the terms of the trust and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries (and not in a self-serving manner).
- Fairness and Impartiality: The person you choose can’t favor one beneficiary over another.
- Organizational Skills: Administering a trust involves managing financial and investment accounts, personal property and real estate. Your successor trustee will need to keep appropriate records and access those records quickly and efficiently.
- Financial and Business Smarts: Your successor trustee’s business and financial skills will need to match the complexity of your trust assets.
- Determination: Administering a trust is not always an easy task. The person you choose will need to have the determination to do a good job even if faced with the frustrations of impatient or unhappy beneficiaries, bureaucratic red tape, and the other potential difficulties that might come with the job.
Your estate planning attorney can help you choose the best person for this important role.