As you complete your estate plan, you will need to name various “helpers.” These are the people who will carry out your plan when the time comes. When will that time be? When you are disabled or you pass away. These helpers will be there to oversee the legal and financial issues of your estate and will also deal with your loved ones who are benefiting from the plan. You will not be there to help them or make sure they are doing it right. So, you better pick the right person now. (No pressure!)
How do you pick a good helper for your plan? Here are some places to start:
1. Is the person ready to handle the job? They don’t have to be experts in law, accounting, or investments. However, they will oversee the legal, tax, and financial issues, so it’s best if they aren’t intimidated by those things. They may need to get help from lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. Will that be overwhelming for them?
2. Can you trust the person to make good decisions? Only in rare cases does someone steal money from an estate or trust. However, in many cases a person messes up because they make poor decisions, or make no decision at all (which really is a decision in and of itself). Ask yourself, “Does this person handle their own money wisely?” Do they spend it well, save themselves, and rely on professionals? Do they listen if someone gives them good advice, or are they too stubborn?
3. Will the person be placed in a difficult family situation by becoming a helper? This can happen when a sibling has to make decisions for another sibling, or a step-child is put in charge of managing the step mother’s trust after the father’s death. Will the job duties cause conflict or even a broken relationship for the person you choose?
4. How often will the person need to be involved? For instance, if a disabled adult child stays at home after the parent’s death with local caregivers, who will oversee them if the trustee lives out of state? Would a local trustee be a good idea because they can drop in on the caregivers and address daily living details?
5. Is the person nearby? If not, does it matter? In many cases, a trustee who lives out of state may do a good job, especially if their duties are mostly big picture. You should consider whether your trustee will be needed to do things that can only be done in person, for instance – sorting personal property.
6. Should you name an individual or professional, such as a bank? In many cases, a professional trustee easily pays for itself because of proper management and smart investments. It also helps avoid problems that can occur when an unprepared family member serves as trustee.
7. Is it a good idea to name co-trustees? The good thing about having co-trustees is that they can balance each other out. There’s a checks and balances so to speak. The bad thing is that they balance each other out. If they get along, it can work great. If they can’t agree, then we have a deadlock and the possibility that the court may have to resolve the fight. In most cases, when you name 2 co-trustees, there will be one of the trustees who will tend to do more or even most of the work. If that’s the case, why not name that person as the sole trustee and avoid possible conflicts?
Naming a helper or trustee can be a very daunting task, but with this article, you have a good starting point of factors you should consider when selecting someone. As always, we are here to help you create an effective estate plan. You don’t have to do it alone. We’ll guide you along every step of the way. Give us a call for a free consultation today and get started!