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Understanding what a trustee does before choosing one

12/09/2022 | Estate Planning, Trust, Trustees
Why You Need To Update Your Estate Plan

Many people put off estate planning because they don’t want to think about their own deaths. Others put it off because they think it’s only necessary for rich or old people. Then others put it off because they are overwhelmed by the choices they need to make and the variety of options.

In reality, a large number of people more than likely fail to create an estate plan due to a combination of all three. If this is you, then you may want to consider the fact that without an estate plan, the state of California decides who inherits your property. The fact is that everyone will pass away at some point. Estate planning has something for everyone, and an attorney can help you determine what combination of documents will work best for you.

Will your estate plan include a trust?

Trusts provide many benefits. In fact, if your estate is valued at over $150,000, it will need to go through a time consuming and expensive probate. If you own a home in this state, you are probably already over that limit even if you don’t realize it. Putting your assets into a trust would allow surviving family members to access those assets right away.

Whom will you choose as a trustee?

Once you decide that you could benefit from a trust, you will then need to choose someone to administer it. When choosing a trustee, it may be helpful to understand what that person will be responsible for doing. Your trustee will take responsibility for the following tasks upon your death:

  • Your trustee needs to follow the terms of your trust even if he or she disagrees with them. Hopefully, however, you will find someone who understands why you made certain decisions.
  • Your trustee will secure all of the trust assets, which includes gathering, reviewing and organizing past records regarding those assets.
  • Your trustee will need to communicate with the beneficiaries. This may mean having the ability to endure confrontations, to say “no” and to disseminate relevant information.
  • You may give your trustee as much or as little discretion to make decisions regarding the trust assets and distributions as you desire, but you must be comfortable with how he or she uses that discretion.
  • Your trustee will need to know how to find answers to his or her questions and any questions the beneficiaries may have.
  • Your trustee will also need to prepare tax returns, statements and other records necessary to maintain the trust.

Regardless of whom you choose to serve as your trustee, he or she does not need to be able to complete all of these tasks without assistance. In many cases, it is just as important to know where to seek support as it is to make decisions.