Monday, February 22, 2010

Today's Probate Answers

When it comes to a Trustee, who should you choose?

While it seems natural to choose a family member or close friend to settle your estate, your selection of a Successor Trustee can make a difference in how fast your estate is distributed and can affect family relationships for years to come.

• If your Successor Trustee has no bookkeeping experience and knows nothing about finance, settling your estate can take longer and result in higher attorney’s fees.

• Naming a family member as Successor Trustee can also place him or her in the delicate position of arbitrating disputes between other family members about the distribution of personal property.

Sometimes a family member is not the right choice. For instance, friction can occur if one sibling is serving as a Trustee over another sibling, or a stepparent serving as a Trustee for his or her stepchildren. In cases like these, or where friction already exists, you may want to consider a Corporate Trustee. Since a Corporate Trustee has experience administering Trusts and managing assets, they can be unbiased when friction occurs.

The other possibility is to choose a family member or friend to be a Co-Trustee with a bank or corporate entity. The individual Trustee knows the family dynamics and the beneficiaries on a personal level. The bank is unbiased and is not embroiled in the family politics.

A carefully chosen Trustee is critical to implementing your estate plan. An attorney who specializes in estate planning and who is sensitive to your family’s issues can help you design a plan and select a Trustee to achieve your goals.

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