The Trusted Trustee: Who Gets to Have All the Fun?

When you are putting together your estate plan (and shame on you if you haven't done so yet) one of the decisions you may face is 'who should be the trustee?'

This question assumes that you are using a trust.  Whether it is due to young beneficiaries, special needs, or other circumstances that call for managed control of assets, a trustee is the title assigned to person/entity.  So what are the requirements?

  1. Capable - A trustee needs to handle investments, accounting, and tax returns.  Some people's brains turn to mush with visions of talking cats when faced with dealing with financial issues.  Your Uncle Bob might be a great guy, but if he is putting a name to the talking cat and not looking at investment returns and allocations, he might not be the best choice for trustee.
  2. Discretionary - Sometimes trustees have to make tough decisions.  These may not be popular decisions with the beneficiaries and Uncle Bob may not want to disappoint his nephew/nieces.  Does the 18 year old nephew entitled to get that Corvette Supercar?  Unless his name is Matt Gardner, probably not.  But Uncle Bob may have to tell him "no".
  3. Available - Life is busy.  Raising two kids with activities, community activities, family events, work commitments, is busy and asking someone to handle another activity in life can be overwhelming.
  4. Trustworthy -There are frequent stories of people get tempted by easy access to money that isn't theirs.  Whether they just needed a "short-term loan" or they've fallen on hard times, sometimes the candy becomes too tempting.
Rather than putting a friend or family member in a difficult position and responsibility, a professional trustee maybe better suited to handle the job.  Banks and trust companies (that are qualified) meet all of these qualifications.  Of course, they do charge a fee for their services.  (Not everything, like this blog, in life is free.)  But having peace of mind that the future of your beneficiaries is being safely and properly managed is worth something.


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