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Naming a Trustee: a Complex and Critical Decision

Persons who expect to leave behind a large estate may prefer to set up distribution and management of their estate following their death in the form of a trust. It is a good way to leave property and assets to heirs, but any trust needs to be carefully constructed and written to assure that last wishes of the decedent are followed and to minimize potential dissention among heirs.

One of the first and most important decisions to be made when you want to establish a trust is the naming of your trustee. It also is one of the most difficult decisions to make because there are so many complex issues that might arise, especially if the estate is large and expected to last through generations.

Some deciding elements include the size and worth of the estate and capabilities of your trustee and these factors:

1. Is the estate large enough that you can afford to hire a professional?
2. With smaller estates, a family member may be able to handle the trust activities.
3. Are there potential disagreements among heirs that might cause problems?
4. Who do you trust to actually carry out your wishes?
5. Do you prefer a co-trustee setup for using both an heir and a non-heir?
6. Will your trustee have the amount of time needed to manage your trust?
7. How much knowledge of tax law and estate affairs will be required?
8. Could the trust possibly outlive your chosen trustee?
9. Is the estate so diversified that you need more than one trustee or specialists?

It is wonderful to have an estate to leave to heirs and to set up a trust fund to assure proper management and distribution of assets you will leave behind. Careful estate planning is important and your number one job is to determine who will be the trustee you can trust most.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "A Matter of Trust," Jeanine Skowronski, September 10, 2012

Our law firm assists individuals with estate planning matters. For more information, please visit our trusts page.

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