At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., we have successfully established trusts for many clients in Southeastern Massachusetts. As accomplished estate planning attorneys, we are well-versed in the multiple advantages trusts offer in facilitating the transfer of funds, diminishing taxes, protecting assets, avoiding probate costs and delays, planning for incapacity, and funding worthy charities. Choosing the right trustee for any trust you create is critical to ensuring that the trust works as planned.
Reasons the Choice of a Worthy Trustee Is Essential
The trustee has several important duties that may impact the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of your family members. Because the individual you choose will be in a fiduciary role, that person should be intelligent, ethical, and relatively good with numbers. Without these qualities, significant mathematical mistakes may be made or your trustee may use the funds entrusted to them for inappropriate purchases.
Why Many Mistakes Are Made When Picking Trustees
It may seem wise to pick the person closest to you — your spouse, your best friend, your sister-in-law — but this person may not be the best choice. That’s because you will probably not be as objective about a loved one as you would about someone else.
Think of it this way: you may be able to trust this person with your life, but do they have strong organizational skills? Are they good at recordkeeping? Meeting deadlines? Making decisions and sticking to them?
Fiduciary Duties of a Trustee Require Ethical, Trustworthy Behavior
The trustee you appoint must carry out the following major fiduciary duties:
- Invest trust funds prudently
- Follow the terms of the trust you have established
- Provide personal attention and due diligence to the trust and its beneficiary
- Keep orderly records of accounts, recording all income and account transactions
- Report at regular intervals to the beneficiary on the state of the trust
In Massachusetts, a trustee who fails in these duties can be found liable for fraud if they are using the trust funds for their own benefit. If found liable for such misconduct, not only are the assets you left in jeopardy, but there may be ugly legal consequences for the trustee who may be removed from the role, and possibly tried on civil or even criminal charges. So, your trustee must be honest.
Other Characteristics Your Trustee Must Have:
Willingness to Commit Time and Effort to the Job
Your trustee may be called upon to collect and manage trust assets, arrange for the disposition of real property, make loans, make purchases for the trustee, and pay bills. This means that your chosen trustee must be someone willing and able to commit to working at the trusteeship as a job requiring both energy and concerned care for an extended period of time.
Choose sometime not only committed to you personally but who has proven to be dependable in numerous areas (work, parenting, saving, borrowing, keeping promises). Just because you love someone deeply doesn’t mean that individual is right for this particular job.
Being empowered requires the ability to make decisions and stick to them. Someone who wavers and spends time overthinking potential consequences is not a good choice since they may slow or stall processes that the beneficiary depends on.
This quality is particularly important if the trust has more than one beneficiary. The last thing you want to do is set the stage for family squabbles.
Understanding of the Beneficiary
It is important that the trustee understands the needs, desires, and personality of those he is managing funds for since the job of trustee involves an emotional as well as transactional relationship between the two individuals. The beneficiary may request funds from the trustee so it is imperative to understand whether the beneficiary is shy and reluctant to ask, over-eager to spend, outright manipulative, or has a problem with addiction.
Looking for the Right Trustee to Protect Your Loved Ones? Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys to Discuss the Process