Advertisement
retirement

Consider Your Trustee Carefully: It Makes a Difference

Having a trust is just one important piece of the puzzle when planning for your financial legacy. Another piece: your trustee.

You’ve made it to a place in your estate planning where it’s been determined that setting up a trust will help accomplish the many goals you have for your family.

You’ve done extensive research and worked with your adviser to select the type of trust that best suits your needs. Whether a trust for your grandchildren or a charitable trust, it’s time now to do what some may consider the easier part of the process — choosing your trustee.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Who do you “trust” to ensure your financial legacy lives on? Do you choose someone close to you? Someone you know respects your wishes, goals and family? Or do you choose someone without a personal connection to you or your family?

Keep in mind that choosing a trustee should be considered more of a business decision and less of a personal one. Although a trust can be perfectly designed for success, the trust’s goals may not be fully carried out when a trustee lacks knowledge, dedication or objectivity.

Personal Connections and Emotional Investments

It’s critical to understand the trustee's fiduciary responsibilities in order to make a wise choice when selecting someone to perform the duties.

Someone who is sensitive to your motivations and your beneficiaries’ well-being doesn’t necessarily possess all the essential qualities. When thinking about a trustee’s responsibilities, you should consider more than her understanding and respect for your financial goals and values.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

A trustee must also play a keen part in investment management; tax planning and filing; making appropriate distributions to beneficiaries or for their benefit; and protecting the trust’s assets. On a day-to-day basis, the trustee must review beneficiaries' requests for funds and decide when to approve or deny distributions in accordance with the trust’s terms. Making this call can be difficult and stressful for someone with a personal connection to the beneficiary.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Imagine a situation where your loved one becomes less capable of handling his financial situation. Perhaps his “friends” are a negative influence. If the trustee is someone close to the beneficiary, she may want to maintain her relationship with him and be unable to tell him “no.” Relationship dynamics may play a bigger role in the individual trustee’s decisions, as opposed to what your intent was in setting up the trust.

Multiple Trustees: Too Much Tension or the Perfect Balance?

It can be difficult to choose between a personal connection and someone with many years of experience managing trusts. What if you could have both?

A corporate trustee, such as a trust company or bank trust department, provides an objective, third-party opinion solely focused on the long-term goals that you set out for your trust. A corporate trustee can serve as either the sole trustee or co-trustee of your trust. Naming a professional trustee along with a trusted friend or family member may be your answer.

In the above scenario, in which a beneficiary becomes financially irresponsible, an effective corporate trustee can employ a disciplined and unbiased approach, while also receiving the co-trustee’s direct input and personal opinion. Not only can enlisting a corporate trustee's help potentially diminish unanticipated family tension, but it also enables a sharing of fiduciary responsibilities with the co-trustee. The co-trustees must act in collaborative consultation unless the trust allows one co-trustee to act alone. It also may allow the corporate trustee to make the necessary tough decisions in this situation without doing further harm to the relationship of the personal co-trustee and beneficiary.

It is vital that you take all things into consideration when establishing the “trust.” Choosing the right trustee(s) can help ensure that not only your financial legacy and intentions will be carried out, but it will be done so professionally and objectively for your heirs’ benefit.

About the Author

Michael S. Farrell

Managing Director, SEI Private Wealth Management

Michael S. Farrell is Managing Director for SEI Private Wealth Management, a business unit of SEI that provides private wealth management solutions, serving high-net-worth individuals and families.

Advertisement

Most Popular

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)
tax deadline

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)

Between due dates for paying estimated taxes, IRA or HSA contributions, and other deadlines, there's more to do by July 15 than just filing your feder…
July 14, 2020
65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
91 Top Dividend Stocks From Around the World
stocks

91 Top Dividend Stocks From Around the World

These 91 Dividend Aristocrats, from the U.S., Canada and Europe, are among the world's top dividend stocks for payout longevity and safety.
July 13, 2020

Recommended

Exit Strategies for Charitable Remainder Trusts
estate planning

Exit Strategies for Charitable Remainder Trusts

CRTs offer tax and income-planning flexibility as life changes over the years.
July 1, 2020
For Financially Responsible Kids, Do NOT Do These 3 Things
family savings

For Financially Responsible Kids, Do NOT Do These 3 Things

The key to putting your kids on the right financial path can be boiled down into one sentence.
July 1, 2020
10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class
tax deductions

10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class

Tax breaks aren't just for the rich. There are plenty of them that are only available to middle- and low-income Americans.
June 30, 2020
Check Your Financial Adviser Now (and Every Year) or Regret It Later
wealth management

Check Your Financial Adviser Now (and Every Year) or Regret It Later

Fewer than 10% of investors use free background checks like Investor.gov, BrokerCheck or IAPD to check their financial advisers’ backgrounds. These on…
June 23, 2020