Your estate trustee needs these 7 qualities

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Selecting a trustee or executor for your estate is among the most important decisions you’ll make in the estate planning process. Many people automatically assume that the role should be filled by a family member. After all, your family has a vested interest in the success of your estate; often they themselves are the beneficiaries. Further, family members typically will not charge a fee to act in the role of trustee either.

However, the role of trustee comes with an immense amount of responsibility. The sheer volume of tasks, and the attention to compliance milestones means that certain individuals will be better suited to the role than others. If you’re in the process of naming a trustee for your estate, consider these 7 factors carefully:

Impartiality
Your trustee should ideally be completely unbiased in executing your wishes. This person needs to be diplomatic, and equipped to handle any family issues that might arise in a responsible and logical manner.

Pragmatism
Choose a trustee that can prioritize rational action, and keep your plans in mind despite any drama unfolding around the issue.

Detail-orientation
Your trustee should be organized. Carrying out the wishes of an estate will require the completion of a long list of duties. There will be plenty of information to track and account for.

Business acumen
An effective trustee comes to the table with existing financial and business knowledge. While they don’t necessarily need to be a “legal expert”, it helps to have background experience in taxation, wealth optimization, and financial strategy.

Residence
As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post on foreign trustees (5 essential qualities to seek in a trusted advisor), choosing a local trustee can protect you from some significant financial consequences.

Availability
Acting as trustee takes a considerable amount of time. The individual you choose should be able to commit to the time needed to act in the role.

Age
Though experience level is valuable, the person should also ideally be younger than you are. After all, you’re expecting them to assist in carrying out your wishes after you’re gone.

Considering a third-party trustee
More and more families are choosing to engage an unbiased third party in acting as trustee. Hiring a professional ensures that all relevant paperwork is filed correctly and punctually. This individual can help the family to avoid mistakes that a layperson may never have identified.

For instance, imagine that the family needs to sell the deceased person’s vehicle. If a family friend offers to buy it for a thousand dollars, the family may perceive this as an viable option. However, a professional would know that to sell the car for anything less than market value would result in a loss to the estate.

In the case of complex trusts, high-net worth estates, blended families, and geographically dispersed families, hiring a professional instantly takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Further, the emotional distance is helpful, given that the execution of the estate will take place following the emotionally charged event of a loved one’s passing. From a totally practical standpoint, having an impartial professional to assist can take some of the load off of grieving families.

Speak to the experts
Zeifmans has decades of experience assisting families in their estate planning and execution. Our knowledgeable professionals have acted as trusted advisors for clients in a wide variety of financial configurations and business stages. To start a conversation, contact our team today.

Suggested supplemental insights:

4 reasons why your family business needs a succession plan advisor

Succession planning and tax planning: two of a kind

Estate Planning: Best conducted early, and often