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Tips for the tough choice of trustees in Florida estate plans

In light of previous discussions, readers in the West Palm Beach area may have begun to give some thought to the many potential uses of trusts as a versatile estate planning tool. In some cases, the decision to employ a trust will be relatively easy. The more difficult decision may lie in the important choice of who to appoint as trustee.

A designated trustee receives a good deal of legal authority and, accordingly, should be expected to assume an equal measure of responsibility toward administering the trust in accordance with the grantor's wishes. Depending upon the nature of the trust and the goals of the grantor, a family member may be an appropriate choice for a trustee. Under other circumstances, a neutral third party may be the best choice. Given the importance of the trustee's duties, Florida residents may want to take the time to think about a few different trustee considerations in the course of estate planning.

The first point of consideration should be the size and complexity of the trust. Put simply, one should ask whether any family member possesses the professional knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage a large sum of money or a trust intended to last across multiple generations.

For a simple trust arrangement, a family member or close friend may be the best choice. In some cases, a genuine understanding of the grantor's intent will be the most important factor in achieving the purposes of a trust. With more complicated trusts, or in situations where there may be infighting amongst beneficiaries, a third-party professional trust administrator may be a better choice.

The choice of a trustee can be one of the most difficult decisions in estate planning and trust formation. In some cases, appointing co-trustees may be a sound option to balance the need for professional management with the desire to have a family-minded voice influence the decision-making process. Whatever trust goals Floridians may have in mind, consultation with an experienced estate planning professional can help ensure a well-made decision.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "A Matter of Trust," Jeanine Skowronski, Sept. 10, 2012

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