When it comes to estate planning, it’s dependability that matters most. When your assets are on the line, it’s important to pick the right trustee. Here is a guide to picking the right trustee for you.
Don’t Focus On Those Who “Deserve” It
Some people simply pick their eldest child, or the one who is most vocal about taking control of the estate down the line. These are ultimately not good reasons to pick a trustee — while they’re willing, they may not be the best choice for the job. Instead, focus on trustworthiness and responsibility. Your trustee should be someone who you know will be responsible for their duties and follow them to the letter. While your eldest child may be more than willing to execute the plan of your trust, someone else may be more attentive and better-suited to do so. Choosing the trustee on sentiment alone will only result in more difficulties for the beneficiaries of your trust down the road.
Ensure That They’re Willing to Do the Job
After you’ve found someone who is both trustworthy and responsible, it’s important to ensure that they’re actually willing to be your trustee. The most trustworthy person in the world isn’t a good trustee if they’re not willing to do so, as they’ll simply be skipped over in the process. When this happens, the duty will pass on to the next trustee if you’ve named one. Otherwise, the court will appoint a trustee for you, to the best of their ability. You shouldn’t leave this up to the court. Have a discussion with your potential trustees beforehand to ensure they’re ready to do the job if it becomes necessary, and don’t leave it as a surprise for the person you appoint.
Convenience Can Be a Detriment
That neighbor who lets you borrow their mower is dependable for your lawn care, but not necessarily your trust. While it would be convenient for a nearby neighbor or family member to facilitate your trust, convenience doesn’t mean they’ll be dependable or willing to do so. Even if it’s not the most convenient case, you only get one chance to choose the right trustee (with a backup or two), so ensure that your pick is the best one, not the most convenient.
You can, however, make the trust process much more convenient by working with a skilled estate planning attorney who will ensure that your plan will facilitate your needs and should help to make the process as simple as possible.
Bob Mannor, a certified dementia practitioner, is past president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys-Michigan Chapter; chair of the State Bar of Michigan Elder and Disability Rights Section; and one of 19 nationally Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the state of Michigan. For more information, visit www.mannorlawgroup.com, or call 810.645.8426.