Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Friday, August 18, 2017

Choosing A Trustee - What To Look For

Designating a trustee can be an agonizingly difficult decision. A trustee may have to serve for many years, even for generations. You want to make sure the trustee will be able to perform the multiple tasks and have staying power to complete the job. That is why it is vital to know, when choosing a trustee, what to look for. After reading this article, consider talking with a trust administration lawyer for additional information on ensuring your estate is protected.

The creator of a trust is often the initial trustee, depending on the kind of trust. The tough part is selecting a successor trustee. The choice for a successor trustee usually boils down to choosing either a family member or an institution. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

What to look for in a family member or friend to serve as trustee

The number one concern is the very word – trust. This person will be responsible for carrying out your wishes when you are not able to oversee and make sure the job gets done correctly. Many people choose a relative out of a sense of obligation, for example, because the person is their spouse or their oldest child, and the trust creator does not want to upset them. They nominate this person to serve as trustee, knowing the named trustee may be dishonest or is bad at handling money. When setting up your trust, your first concern should be who will do the best job.

Look for these qualities in a friend or relative to serve as trustee:

  1. Integrity – someone who does the right thing for the right reason
  2. Backbone – someone who will not be intimidated by pushy or greedy beneficiaries
  3. Good with finances – someone who will make wise investments, striking the correct balance so that he does not lose your money in unsound investments, but does not let the principal dwindle due to fear of taking any risks.

People who have all those qualities are rare. You might not have any relatives or friends who fit this description. Do not worry. You can always hire a professional or an institution to serve as a trustee.

What to Look for in a Professional Trustee

You could hire an attorney, an accountant, a professional personal representative, or a bank to serve as trustee. The good news is that they are more likely to have experience serving as trustees and the law regulates them. The bad news is they will charge a fee.

Look for these traits in a professional or institution to serve as trustee:

  1. Spotless reputation in the professional community
  2. Reasonable fees
  3. Plan of succession in the event the professional retires or the institution changes its business structure.

The amount of your assets will be a factor in whether your estate can afford to have a professional or an institution serve as trustee instead of a friend or relative. On the other hand, it can be much more costly to your estate if a friend or relative mismanages the assets in your trust or embezzles the assets, than paying fees to a professional or institutional trustee. At the end of the day, you will have a difficult decision to make. Get sound advice to make the best decision you can. For assistance in choosing your trustee, contact that Law Offices of Berge & Berge today.

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