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Perhaps the most critical decision during estate planning is naming the person who will administer your trust when you are unable to do so. Selecting a trustee requires thoughtful consideration and early decision making. It is advisable you seek guidance from experienced Florida estate planning attorneys when choosing your estate trustee.

What Does a Trustee Do?

A trustee, or fiduciary, oversees the management and distribution of property and assets held in trust.

The role of trustee requires significant time and attention. Trustees make many decisions regarding tax and financial matters impacting the estate and its beneficiaries. Serving as trustee demands adaptability to change and an ability to manage the trust in the best interests of its beneficiaries.

Who Can Serve as a Trustee?

As a matter of law, a person serving as trustee need only be considered legally competent, meaning he or she must be over 18 years of age and capable of managing his or her personal affairs. Most people invariably name a family member or friend to act as their trust fiduciary, though others choose their personal accountant or lawyer, or retain the services of a corporate trustee.

Family Members and Friends

  • comfort and reassurance through familiarity
  • understand your business affairs and personal relationships
  • may lack qualifications for trust management
  • potential rifts can develop with beneficiaries
  • often forgo fees associated with trust management

Lawyer or Accountant

  • professional expertise in legal or tax matters
  • generally charge fees equal to their hourly rate

Corporate Trustee

  • specialize in trust administration
  • structured and experienced
  • emotionally removed from beneficiaries
  • able to make tough decisions
  • can be rigid and difficult to remove or replace
  • significant fees including percentage of assets

Selecting Your Fiduciary – 5 Key Considerations

The person you put in place to manage your trust should meet several key considerations, providing peace of mind that your affairs will be appropriately handled on your behalf.

  1. Committed. The role of trustee is often long term and involved. Select someone who is committed to overseeing your estate for as long as necessary.
  2. Attentive. Managing a trust is often involved. Your trustee should be detail-oriented and organized.
  3. Informed. Your fiduciary should understand your financial and family dynamics to help balance your wishes against asset management and disbursement.
  4. Capable. Select someone who has a demonstrated ability in managing their finances. Financial responsibility, stability, integrity, and honesty are vital considerations when naming a fiduciary.
  5. Flexible. Trust management requires an ability to flex with changing tax and legal implications, as well as changing circumstances and needs of beneficiaries.

Should My Florida Estate Planning Attorney Choose My Trustee?

While your estate planning attorney should not choose your trustee for you, they are a valuable resource when weighing your prospects. With experience and insight into qualities that make a competent trustee, your attorney is well-equipped to guide you toward a sound decision. Schedule a consult with one of our experienced Florida estate planning attorneys today. Relying on advice early in the process, naming your trustee, and including a possible second fiduciary successor can safeguard your trust and optimize the implementation of your wishes.