Choosing A Trustee

Who have you decided to name as your Successor Trustee?

Choosing A Trustee


As much as you love your children and would like to think they will be caring and unselfish when you’re not there to referee, this is the time to be realistic. If they really don’t get along, or if there could be jealousies, you and your family will be much better off with a professional as your successor trustee. The fee they charge is a small price to pay if it keeps peace in your family. 

The purpose of this page is to help you consider all the factors in choosing a responsible person that will carry out your wishes without regard to family pressure and will carry out all tasks to the highest standards.

Don’t forget that you can name as many contingent individuals as you want. It costs nothing to add a professional fiduciary last. You should always have a backup plan.

Key factors in deciding on your Trustee


  • Do they pay their bills on time, have they had a bankruptcy, do they save money?


  • How would they get you to doctor's appointments or handle your affairs from afar?


  • Can they handle a family member that thinks they are not doing their job the way they should be?


  • You need to ask them if they want the responsibility. Do they have any idea how much work it will take and the pressure from family members they will get? Are they aware that it may tear the family apart?


  • Are they honest when it comes to money?


  • If they don’t, how will the take care of you?


  •  Will they make the decisions the way you would have made them, using substituted judgement.


  • For Example: Making sure the homeowners insurance policy is current, because if it’s not and the house burns down that person is now responsible for that expense. We use a checklist for trust administration that is often times 3 page long. If one item is missed, it could be catastrophic to the estate.

Trustee Responsibility and Question to ask yourself

Will they follow your wishes?

Objectivity and ability to follow the trust document instructions will mean less court involvement, lower costs and fewer unresolved disputes between your beneficiaries.

Do they WANT the responsibility?

At any time you choose, your Trustee can take over your bill paying, arrange for additional help for you, and look after other responsibilities you designate. Trust administration can be time consuming and fraught with difficulties. Financial transactions must be handled in a timely fashion. Beneficiaries must be kept informed to reduce fear and conflict. Decisions must be made and thoroughly documented (for as long as three years) after a loved one’s death.

Will there be fights among siblings?

Trust documents and Health Care directives can protect you, your spouse and loved ones from disagreements and conflicts of interest. Making decisions NOW can bring peace and family harmony.

Can they be responsible?

With an experienced trustee to take care of your daily worries, you can enjoy a greater quality of life. The trustee applies certain basic skills and knowledge; financial, legal, medical, trust accounting principles, a fair and objective point of view, knowledge of the probate code and tax laws, accurate and complete documentation, and time to do the work. Objective communication with every person involved with the trust is critical to success.

Will they know what to do?

Your trust document can be complex with detailed instructions. You may want certain decisions to be at the discretion of an experienced trustee.

WHO will protect your documents?

Your trustee will have an understanding of your plans and desires, and have a safe place to keep your documents.

Who is on your financial team?

The team needed for a good Estate Plan includes the professionals you already know and trust. Your trustee should have a list of all the current members of your team, like your attorney, CPA and financial planner, along with any relevant documents. The professional trustee develops relationships with additional professionals as needed. Consistent, calm communication and integrity keep the intent of the trust protected. Your trustee keeps you informed and implements YOUR decisions.

Could assets be lost, if they make a mistake?

Some investments can lose value if unsupervised. Some of the institutions, in which you are invested, need to be reviewed regularly. Some decisions can have severe tax consequences. Precious family heirlooms need to be identified and protected for the future. An experienced team, sworn to a code of ethics, can provide asset protection and good planning for the long term benefit of the family.

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