Why Your Choice of Trustee Matters
As you plan for your own and your family’s financial future, you may be considering the creation of a trust. If you decide a trust is needed, either during your lifetime or in your will, you will have to choose a trustee to administer it.
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A trust is a legal arrangement that transfers property to a trustee, who manages it for the benefit of the individuals you name. The law sets high standards that every trustee must meet. You can choose almost anyone to serve as your trustee — a family member, a friend, an accountant, an attorney, or a corporate fiduciary, such as our institution. Each can take legal responsibility for trust assets, which is a trustee's fundamental duty. Beyond that, naming a corporate fiduciary — alone or jointly with a family member — has several advantages for your beneficiaries.
Continuity and Stability
Stability is important because a trust may extend over many years and into a second generation of beneficiaries. You can expect a corporate fiduciary to continue to serve your family during the trust's entire term. But the lifespan and health of an individual trustee are always uncertain — a factor you will want to take into consideration when you select a trustee and a successor trustee to take over if, for some reason, your original trustee cannot continue to serve.
Investment and Other Specialized Skills
A trustee must be capable of investing the trust assets productively and prudently. Experienced trust administrators and investment managers have the skills needed to:
- Plan an appropriate investment strategy
- Make investment decisions within that strategy
- Account for the trust's principal and income transactions
- Address tax issues
- Conscientiously follow the instructions you provide in your trust document
- Respond to unforeseeable future circumstances by acting prudently within any discretion you decide to allow
You and your beneficiaries can be confident that the trust is in the hands of reliable professionals who know what needs to be done and how to do it well. An individual trustee may have no experience in fulfilling the demanding duties of a trustee and may lack the specialized investment, accounting, and tax skills that are needed to ensure trouble-free administration.
Will an individual trustee have the time that will be required over many years to manage the trust's assets and attend to the needs of your beneficiaries? An individual trustee may not be as available for the trust and beneficiaries as an organization that is in business to administer trusts would be.
History of Performance
The performance history of a trustee is important. To assess a trustee's potential for future results, you need to examine past achievements. You will want a trustee with a solid reputation in the community and a proven track record in administering trusts and especially in managing investments.
No trust document can foresee every eventuality that may occur. During the term of the trust, your trustee will be called upon to make careful decisions that are in the best interests of your beneficiaries. You can expect a corporate fiduciary to make such decisions objectively, while an individual may be influenced by emotions.