When it comes time to create an estate plan, many people choose to include much more than a simple Last Will and Testament. One common addition beyond a simple Will is a trust. One benefit to a trust is that it can be as simple, or as complex, as you need it to be. Regardless of how detailed your trust is, however, you will need to appoint a trustee. Although it may not be your first thought, you should think about appointing a neutral, independent trustee.
Most people immediately think of appointing a spouse, parent, or adult child as the trustee of their trust. Appointing a family member may seem like the obvious choice; however, it can create more problems than it solves in the long run. People tend to choose a family member because they want to keep control of assets in the family or because they feel a family member can better understand family dynamics. While these may be valid points, there are other things to consider as well.
Being the trustee of a trust is typically a complicated and time consuming job. It usually requires a significant amount of experience and knowledge of both financial and legal matters – knowledge that a family member may not have. If your trustee makes even a simple, inadvertent mistake, he or she could be personally liable and trust assets could be forever lost. Furthermore, other family members may resent the appointment and the perceived control the trustee has over them if they are beneficiaries. In the end, it often makes more sense to appoint an independent trustee who has the requisite experience and knowledge to carry out the job well. Ask your estate planning attorney for recommendations for independent, professional trustees in your area.
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