Selecting a Trustee
If you elect to use a trust for your estate planning you will need to select a trustee. Many clients serve as trustee of their trust, at least initially. However, it is important for you to select a successor trustee to serve when you are no longer willing or able to serve as trustee. In any event, you will need a successor trustee to serve upon your death and it is better to have a successor you have nominated rather than have a successor appointed by the court.
How do you select a successor trustee? You select someone you trust. It is important to appoint someone with a reasonable degree of financial sophistication, someone who will carry out the stated terms of the trust and someone who you know is willing to serve.
Many people choose a family member as a successor. Often this is a surviving spouse or an adult child. Regardless of the relationship, you should choose someone who is capable of handling the job. Sometimes the surviving spouse is very capable of handling the financial affairs. Other times, the surviving spouse is not the one who handled the finances during the joint lifetime and either by reason of age or lack of experience, is not well suited for the task. If a child is selected, in some situations, this could cause friction among siblings if all are not named. If all are named, the process may become cumbersome.
There are alternatives to selecting a family member. One is selecting a trusted friend or business associate who you feel has the qualities discussed above. Another alternative is choosing a private professional fiduciary. A private professional fiduciary is a person registered with the State of California. The professional fiduciary is bonded and has passed an examination testing their knowledge of the laws regarding trusts. One of the advantages of the professional fiduciary is that he or she is an independent person who is knowledgeable about trust administration. A professional fiduciary will charge for their services which will be an expense incurred by the estate that might not be incurred with a family member as trustee. Our office works with several private professional fiduciaries and can recommend one to you if you wish to consider that possibility.
The selection of a trustee should be carefully considered. When we meet to discuss your estate plan, our experienced probate attorneys can discuss this process with you.