What Is A Trustee And Who Should Be A Trustee?

Video Summary


What is a trustee, and who should be a trustee? A trustee is the person who is in charge of a trust. As the word trust means, you are in – you're trusting somebody with your assets, and the person that you're trusting with your assets is called a trustee. And so they're the ones that have certain powers – usually to invest the money – and they are given directions under the trust instrument to decide or given direction as to how they should spend the money or use the money. Sometimes a trust provide for discretionary disbursement, so the trustee uses their own judgment as to how much money should be distributed out to a beneficiary, such as a minor child, for their care or for their education.


So that's – and the trustee can be anybody. A trustee can be a bank, which – financial institutions. They really go out and look for that – trust departments – however, your estate needs to be sizable in order for them to serve and to take charge of your estate. I believe that they start at about $500,000.00. Smaller estates usually have individuals who are concerned.


So, well, who should you designate as the trustee? Well, many times, whenever we do estate planning documents, you start by naming yourself, which is a little hard to explain whenever you're trusting yourself with the trust – with your own assets, but that's really what the trust instrument says. You direct yourself as the trustees to use the money for your benefit, and you're the one who established the trust as the settlor or the grantor of the trust. However, it's usually an estate planning tool, and then you designate what you want done with your assets when you pass away.


Course, when the trustee passes away, there needs to be a successor trustee. Well, who should you name? Well, usually, in the estate planning scheme of things, or whenever you prepare a trust for estate planning purposes, customarily you name a family member. Sometimes you might name a professional, such as your attorney, your accountant, or financial advisor – they have some restrictions as far as doing that – but many times it's a family member who you believe has good business sense and will follow your directions.


A lot has to do with whether or not the term – under the terms of the trust you just want make distribution immediately upon your death rather than having it held for an extended period of time over, let's say, a minor's time until they reach age 25. Well, if they're gonna pay out money, well, then you want someone that's sort of sensitive to raising a child and understanding how, whenever you're 18 years old or younger, that you'd like to have a brand-new Corvette or some other high-performance automobile. So you would want the trustee to think like you would do and say, "Well, a Toyota Camry – a used Toyota Camry with about 60,000 miles will do just fine to get you to and from school, and be dependable transportation."


But you sorta understand you need to look at what the circumstances are as to who you appoint as your trustee. You can name multiple trustees and have one be responsible for the financial investments. There's any number of people who you can name, and why you would name them, but I usually see where a family member is designated. And sometimes. in the absence of a family member, they may ask their attorney or accountant to serve. If they ask the attorney to sign, then a disclosure must be initialed at the time the document's signed advising you that there can be additional charges to serve as a fiduciary – whether it be a trustee or personal representative – by the attorney, that you've been explained that you can designate anybody you want, including a bank or family member.


It's very hard to say, well, who should serve as trustee. It depends on your individual circumstances and what family members or persons you know that are available to be able to do what you would like done after you pass away.


So if you'd like to set up a trust, or have some questions about a trust, give me a call at (727) 847-2288.