Smart Choices: Choosing a Trustee

While it may be an uncomfortable topic to address, your estate plan should actually give you peace of mind.  One of the factors that should give you peace is knowing that your trust will be in capable hands by choosing a capable and honest trustee.  An experienced attorney can provide the information you need to help you make the best decision in a trustee.

The Importance of Choosing A Trustee

In the event of disability or incapacity before death, the trustee administers the trust for the well being of the creators of the trust as the true primary beneficiaries.   After an individual passes away, their trustee is responsible to execute all the stipulations in the trust.  This requires a significant amount of trust in the person, as they could easily embezzle funds, delay distribution, or simply fail to properly account for all assets.  

A trustee’s job involves a lot of factors, it is important to choose a person who is able to do any of the following:

  • Act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries;
  • Be honest and open with beneficiaries during all stages of communication;
  • Follow the probate code;
  • Sell assets when necessary;
  • File an estate tax return (if necessary) and pay necessary taxes;
  • Commit in the long term to disburse money gradually to younger heirs; and
  • Utilize organizational skills to work through the stipulations of the estate and the trust.

Words of Caution

California has one legal requirement for an estate’s trustee; the trustee must be at least 18 years old and of “sound mind.”  For tax purposes, it would be best for your trustee to be a U.S. citizen.  But as the aspects of the job that we have laid out earlier show, it takes a lot more than just legal age, sound mind, and citizenship to be a good trustee.  You may be inclined to choose a trustee based on their relationship to you as a sibling or a close friend, but it is a good idea for you to keep the following in mind.

  1. Although a trustee could also be a beneficiary, it may not be a good idea.  Your trustee may have “unfettered discretion” to spend funds from the trust on their own welfare and comfort; it could be problematic to have a beneficiary share the role of trustee as well.
  2. Capability comes before personal feelings when choosing a trustee.  Even if you do not want to leave out a loved one, it may be the lesser of two evils to let one person feel left out than to leave your trust in incapable or untrustworthy hands.  

Contact A Legal Representative

When determining various aspects of your estate plan, you will have plenty of decisions to make.  While a good attorney will not attempt to make your decisions for you, they will provide all the information you need to make sound ones.  For the most up-to-date and relevant information that will help you make the best decisions, contact Charles D. Stark in Sonoma County for help by calling 707-527-9900


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