Many people create trusts as an important part of their comprehensive estate plans. In order to create a valid trust in accordance with Missouri law, you must take certain steps, including drafting the trust document, transferring your property to the ownership of the trust, and more. One critical step is to designate someone to be the successor trustee. In most cases, you can serve as the trustee until you become incapacitated or pass away, and then the successor trustee will take over.
As long as you can manage your own trust property, you know that your estate is in good hands. However, if you lose the mental capacity to make rational financial and legal decisions, another person will need to step in and start making these decisions for you. Because much of your property and assets will likely be in your trust, you want to make sure the successor trustee is willing and able to properly manage that property.
Successor trustees have many tasks and responsibilities, including:
- Inventory and valuation of the trust property
- Managing invested trust property
- Keep accounting records
- Filing tax returns
- Distributing trust property in accordance with the trust document
A trustee owes a fiduciary duty to all beneficiaries of the trust, which constitutes the highest existing legal duty. This means that the successor trustee must never act in a self-serving manner, should never act with bias or favor one beneficiary over others, and must use reasonable care and prudent judgment when investing and managing all property in the trust. The successor trustee must also distribute the trust property in accordance with the trust document and keep beneficiaries properly informed regarding the trust property and distributions.
Some Parties to Consider
When deciding who should be in charge of your trust, you should consider whether an individual will have the judgment and ability to fulfill all their responsibilities. You should also consider whether they have the time and willingness to take care of the trust property, as some people are simply too busy or otherwise do not feel up to the task. If you choose the wrong person, it could result in the unnecessary waste of your estate.
The following are some people who you may consider:
- Your spouse, given they have the mental capacity and financial understanding to act as the successor trustee
- One of your children, though it should not automatically be the oldest child. Another child might be better equipped to handle the job.
- Another friend or relative who you trust and have confidence in their abilities to invest and manage your property
- A professional, such as your attorney, who will manage and distribute your trust property from an objective perspective and who is bound by ethical rules
Consult an Experienced St. Louis Trusts and Estates Attorney
When you create a trust with the help of the Law Office of Kenneth Carp, part of the process is carefully weighing your options for a successor trustee. Contact us online or call (636) 947-3600 to discuss any estate planning needs or questions today.