9 Qualities to Look for in a Trustee
One of the more important decisions you will make when establishing a trust is to name a trustee. This is the individual responsible for carrying out your wishes after you pass away or are unable to do so on your own. Most of the time, people look to a family member or trusted friend to fill that role, which is absolutely acceptable. But how do you know you’ve chosen the right person?
The reality is that naming a trustee is a very important decision that can make or break your estate planning strategy. As a result, there are a few basic qualities you should be looking for in a trustee:
1. Reliability — As easy as it might be to choose your brother or oldest son as your trustee, you have to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can rely on them to handle whatever duties you’ve assigned them.
2. Decisiveness — Even if you have carefully-crafted instructions, there may come a time during the trustee’s reign when they must make one or several crucial decisions quickly and effectively.
3. Organization — The role of a trustee is complex, even when you’ve provided a road map. Therefore, the person you choose must have strong organizational skills to fulfill all requirements necessary for legal compliance.
4. Stability — One of the top qualities of a trustee is the ability to provide stability in times of chaos and sadness. The loved ones you’ve left behind should have peace of mind that everything will be OK and that your trustee is prepared to move forward.
5. Honesty — Your trustee is responsible for disbursing money to beneficiaries and possibly handling many other financial affairs. So it goes without saying that the person you choose should be honest and perform their job with integrity.
6. Willingness to commit — You may have one or two people pegged to be your trustee, but that doesn’t mean they feel comfortable shouldering that responsibility. Ensure the trustee you choose is in this for the long haul.
7. Financial experience — While not a requirement, a key quality for any trustee is their ability to handle finances. This includes paying bills, disbursing money to beneficiaries, filing taxes, etc.
8. Impartiality — Your trustee is legally bound to keep your best interests at heart. They shouldn’t have any conflicts of interest in administering your trust; if they do, you should consider choosing someone else.
9. The ability to devote time and energy — Being a trustee could require a significant time investment on their part. Therefore, it’s imperative that you choose someone who has the time to properly fulfill their duties.
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Having a plan for the future is the most important gift you can give yourself and your family. Granted, none of us will ever know for sure what is around every corner in life. And just thinking about the what-ifs — what if I were to die or become incapacitated tomorrow; what if my child with special needs has no one to care for her; what if all my “stuff” isn’t passed onto the right people — can be overwhelming. But having a plan that accounts for your family’s unique circumstances, puts your affairs in order, has concrete solutions to your concerns, lays out your wishes and goals, and protects your family’s future provides peace of mind for the road ahead.
Caitlyn Ashley Law in Denton, Texas, Will counsel you on which documents are best suited for your needs and ensure they are flexible enough to meet your changing needs for years to come.