“Setting up a trust for your estate can be an excellent financial move, but you have to find the right trustee.”
Many folks who have a sizeable estate will create a trust to protect it and their beneficiaries from probate. However, having a strong trust can depend on having the right estate trustee. This individual will be making all of the decisions after you're gone, so you’d better choose wisely. The Motley Fool, in its recent article, “How to Find the Right Estate Trustee,” gives some key qualities to look for in an estate trustee.
Fiduciaries. A fiduciary is an individual with a legal and moral obligation to put the clients' interests first. A new fiduciary rule requires that all advisors who work with retirement plans or provide retirement planning advice to consider themselves fiduciaries. However, some financial advisors may or may not act as fiduciaries. If they commit to being a fiduciary and have the necessary knowledge and experience to be a good trustee, any type of financial advisor can do the job.
Qualifications. A trustee may need to make critical decisions about how to manage the assets in your trust. He or she must possess the right background to make informed decisions. Estate trustees should have training in investing and taxes and possibly business management experience, if you are a business owner.
Diplomacy. A trustee takes control in a stressful family situation, so he or she must be sensitive and get along with your beneficiaries. When considering potential trustees, look at their interpersonal skills in addition to their business and financial skills. You might also get your beneficiaries together with the potential trustee to see if they get along.
On the Younger Side. Let’s be candid. You need to pick a qualified trustee who’s going to be around after you're gone. That means they should be people who are significantly younger than you are and in good health. You should also name a "successor trustee" who will assume control, if the first trustee is no longer available. You can also designate a law firm or financial firm as your trustee, but an institutional trustee will be more expensive than individual trustees. They often set their fees at 1% of the value of the estate. An institutional trustee may also be confined by its internal company policies and not your wishes.
Review Your Choice. Your choice may be ideal now, but not so five years down the road. They may be unavailable, estranged, have health issues or have other issues preventing them from serving. Revisit your estate plan on a regular basis, as your wishes may change. At the same time, reevaluate your trustees.
Take charge and take good care of your family even after you're gone.
Reference: Motley Fool (July 11, 2017) “How to Find the Right Estate Trustee”