The Trustee of your estate is the individual(s) whom you name in your Will, tasked with ensuring that all your assets and personal belongings are taken care of according to your wishes. The appointing of an individual in this position should take a considerable amount of thought. To make an informed decision, you need to be aware of the Trustee’s duties and what kind of person should be considered.
Some of the duties of a trustee include:
- Notifying any named beneficiaries of their potential interest within your estate
- Distributing assets to named beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will
- Working with your attorney to determine that the working Will is indeed the current and final Will
- Determining and settling any outstanding debts
- Opening a bank account that will operate as an estate account and preparing/filing outstanding tax returns, as well as arranging for payment for any tax that is owed
Additional duties can include making funeral and burial arrangements if no decisions have been made prior by the deceased. A common misconception is that an immediate family member would make these arrangements in that case, but this does fall under the Trustee’s duties. However, naming the right person as your Trustee means that the individual(s) will work with immediate family and close friends to ensure that the funeral and burial services are a fitting homage to the deceased.
When it comes to who you should name as your Trustee, it is worth bearing in mind that this title comes with a great deal of responsibility, some of which you’ve seen outlined above. While an attorney can be hired to assist your Trustee throughout this process and guide them when it comes to the list of tasks at hand, the decisions lay solely with whom you have named.
The decision of whether to name a family member vs. a friend can be somewhat easy only in the sense that you should not choose someone simply because they are related to you, or you consider them your closest friend. The decision-making process should prioritize the person’s reliability, responsibility when it comes to finances, location (it is recommended that your Trustee live in a nearby city to ease complications when it comes to completing necessary work), and their overall capacity to remain objective in the wake of making very serious and permanent decisions about someone else’s assets.
The designation of a Trustee can also depend on how you plan on spreading out the division of your assets. If your assets are being distributed between multiple parties, not excluding extended family members, friends, Godchildren, or foundations, then your focus should primarily be on the skills listed above, as there will be a significant amount of work involved. Should your assets be primarily designated to your spouse and your children, then you may consider having your spouse be your Trustee. That said, this is still quite an emotional process, so should you feel that your spouse may be overwhelmed or simply that your children are too young to be named, then it would be best to designate someone else.
Ultimately, while there are several crucial factors to consider when deciding who to name your Trustee, your choice comes down to your personal preferences, relationships, and comfort. It is up to you to decide who you feel can best represent you and your wishes after your passing. At Mikhailitchenko Law Office, we are dedicated to protecting your assets. Our knowledgeable and experienced team can help answer any additional questions you may have about this process. Contact us today to learn more about what we offer when it comes to Wills and Estates.