Tim Alles

Jordan Bush

Chris Shourds

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Previous Newsletters

April 2021 Does My Estate Plan Have An Elephant In The Room? (Part I)

March 2021 How Can I "Trust" My Trustees?

February 2021 What Do Tiger Woods' Tweets, and Your Social Media Content Have to Do with Estate Planning? (Part II)

January 2021 What Do Tiger Woods' Tweets, and Your Social Media Content Have to Do with Estate Planning? (Part I)

December 2020 What Are Estate Taxes And Why Do They Matter?

November 2020 What Life Events Should Trigger an Estate Plan Review?

October 2020 My Child Is A Spendthrift. What Can I Do To Protect Their Inheritance?

September 2020 What Is the Difference Between Estate Planning and Elder Law?

August 2020 Estate Planning After a Divorce - What Does It Mean for Your Estate Plan?

July 2020 What Should You Expect From Your Trustee?

June 2020 Should You Pass Your Assets Through A Trust Or A Will?

May 2020 Important Issues To Consider For Your Estate Plan

April 2020 Important Estate Planning Considerations During a Pandemic Crisis

How Can I "Trust" My Trustees?

It isn’t a coincidence that the word “trust” is part of the word “trustee”. The essence of being a trustee means being trustworthy. When a loved one passes away, or becomes incapacitated, if they have a trust, the individual named as the trustee, will step into the role of administering the trust. Trustworthiness means the ability to be relied on as honest and truthful.

What Does A Trustee Do?

A trustee is the legal owner of assets held in trust. The trustee will manage the trust property, as well as distribute property to beneficiaries, in the manner instructed by the trust document.

In most cases, when you establish a trust, you can choose to be the trustee of your own trust while you are alive and able to take care of your own finances. (If you are doing estate and gift tax planning, this may not be the best option.) However, in the event of your incapacity, or upon your death, a “successor” trustee, whom you have previously chosen, will step in to take over control of the assets held in your trust.

Trustees have a “fiduciary duty”, which means that they need to act in good faith, and with the highest ethical standards. They must perform duties, and administer the trust, to protect the well-being of the beneficiaries and the estate.

What Qualities Should I look for in a trustee?

It is common to name relatives and close friends, as trustees of an estate, because they are usually the most trusted people in a relationship. However, in some cases, trusted professional advisors, such as family attorneys and accountants are selected as trustees. In other cases, institutional trust advisors, such as a trust department inside a bank, are selected as trustees.

Remember, trustee selections are not set-in stone. They can change over time, based on changes in relationships, capacity, health, age, and family circumstances. Here is a list of important qualities to consider as you select trustees for your estate.

  • Trustworthiness: (honest and truthful)
  • Ability to cooperate: (listens and works with all parties involved)
  • Willingness to seek competent advice: (involves experts, such as financial advisors, to help guide good decision making)
  • Ability to dedicate time and willingness to serve: (considerations of age, health, ability, stage in life, free time, commitment)
  • Administration skills: (organized and detail oriented)
  • Financial Experience: (ability to listen to expert investment advisors, and make sound investment decisions) 
  • Understanding of family history and culture: (Understands your family values, world view, intentions) 
  • Common sense: (ability to manage practical day to day responsibilities, and make responsible decisions)
  • Other Considerations: (legal age, competency, citizenship, state residency, tax issues)

As you consider your estate, and trustee selections, it is important to review these factors with your estate planning firm. Your attorney will be able to guide you through these oftentimes complex decisions.


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