One of the most important decisions to be made when designing your estate plan is who to name in the various fiduciary roles – trustee, personal representative, executor and agent. While a critical decision, it is often given significantly less thought than the design and distribution of your assets. Even a meticulously designed estate plan drafted by an accomplished estate planning attorney will fail to achieve its purpose if the Trustee selected fails to administer the trust properly.
Not wanting to upset the family hierarchy, many parents name their first-born child as the first fiduciary appointed in their estate planning documents, followed by the second-born child (if applicable). Depending on the provisions of the trust, this type of arrangement could create a situation where the oldest child has complete discretion over whether to make distributions to his/her siblings. When making that determination, if the oldest child is also a beneficiary of the trust, how can he/she act impartially in determining whether to make the distribution? This type of arrangement can lead to unwanted family conflicts, even for those families whose siblings are extremely close.
Typical Trustee Duties
In addition to the potential family conflicts inherent in naming a child to serve as Trustee, it is also important to consider the duties your Trustee may need to perform. Depending on the complexity, a Trustee might be required to perform the following tasks:
- Accounting and administrative duties, such as paying bills, retitling assets, and bookkeeping
- Asset management, including reviewing investment performance, maintaining records, tracking investments, and collecting dividends and other income
- Maintenance and transfer of real estate, including obtaining titles, deeds, and appraisals
- Management, valuation, and disposal of business interests held in the trust
- Valuation and distribution of personal property
- Management of unique assets, such as farm or ranch holdings, copyrights, patent rights, and oil and gas interests
- Estate settlement, including preparing tax returns and paying creditors
- Distribution of assets according to the trust terms
Corporate Trustee v. Individual Trustee
As you can see from the partial list of duties above, serving as a Trustee is a serious and time-consuming obligation. Not only that, an individual Trustee can expose themselves to significant personal liability for failing to administer the Trust properly. Many people find that appointing a corporate trustee can relieve the burden of asking an individual to take on that additional liability and perform the duties required of a Trustee.
Unlike most individuals, a corporate trustee has extensive investment management and trust administration experience, is knowledgeable of the applicable state laws and procedures, and can serve as a neutral third-party administrator. If any of the following situations may be inherent in your estate plan, consider appointing a corporate trustee.
6 Circumstances to Consider a Corporate Trustee
- Long-term trust administration
- Complex, multi-generational trust administration
- Family conflicts
- Economic disparity among beneficiaries
- Dissimilar provisions for beneficiaries in the same generation
- Spendthrift protection
Did You Know?
Carson Group Partners Private Trust provides trust solutions for individuals whose financial, family or business needs require the services of a professional fiduciary. Working under a national charter, Carson Group Partners Private Trust provides trust administration services in all 50 states. To learn more about how Carson Group Partners Private Trust works with your Advisor to help protect your estate planning legacy, check out our Directed Trusts fact sheet.
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Contact your Advisor with questions about your estate plan and to learn more about our corporate trustee services.
Carson Group Partners Private Trust is a Trust Representative Office of National Advisors Trust Company (NATC). Carson Wealth and NATC are separate and unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s policies and services. Investment advisory services offered through CWM, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. This publication contains general information only.