Creating a trust is a great way to ensure that your family and assets are protected in the event of your death or incapacity. However, there’s an additional step that must be taken to ensure your wishes are carried out and your affairs are handled properly if something happens to you. That step is empowering your successor trustee how to carry out his or her duties when the time comes.
Bear in mind that the person you choose to serve as Successor Trustee will inherit a number of important roles and responsibilities, and it is imperative to talk through what may be expected of him or her in advance. This will allow you to answer any questions and talk through any concerns or problems while you are still able to have a say in the matter.
A good starting point is to have the trustee review the recently created trust document. Again, it makes sense to do this while you are still well and of sound mind so that you can talk about the true intentions behind the trust. You may choose to sit down with your Successor Trustee and work through this step privately, or you can do it with the help of your attorney who can walk everyone through any confusing points. Either option will provide the trustee with valuable insight on what was originally intended when the trust was created and how to bring those goals about.
Along these same lines, it is the trustee’s responsibility to make certain that he or she is acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries. If there is a question about how to properly manage assets, you’ll want to let your Successor Trustee know that an attorney can be brought in for advice and to make sure that decisions being made are in line with California state and federal laws. That is one of the reasons why estate planning attorneys always recommend choosing a trustee who not only has good business sense but who is also extremely trustworthy. He or she should understand that the trust is never to be used for personal gain.
As an added safeguard along these lines, the trustee should be prepared to provide an annual accounting of the trust to the beneficiaries. This allows all parties to understand how the trust is being managed. It may also be appropriate to have your trustee provide this information to an estate planning attorney or other legal entity if that is your desire. If your trustee doesn’t feel like he or she can handle this task, it can help to know immediately so that you can choose someone else.
Remember that while having a trust provides a number of legal safeguards and protections for your family, complications can still arise if the trustee is not properly prepared for his or her job. Having these conversations in advance with your chosen trustee can help address any potential issues while you are still able to express your wishes and will provide the trustee with a greater understanding of what may be expected of him or her when the time comes. If you need help facilitating such conversations or you’d like information about setting up a trust in the first place, please contact one of our estate planning law firms located throughout the state of California at 800-244-8814.