Selecting Your Successor Trustee Or Personal Representative
By Kim Boyer
An important decision you need to make in planning your estate is who will be in charge of your assets after you’re gone or when you are incapacitated. Many of my clients ask me for guidance on selecting the successor trustee of their trust or the executor (“personal representative”) of their estate. There is no one right answer, and it depends on your individual circumstances. Here we’ll discuss some factors for you to consider.
Pick someone trustworthy. The most important thing is that you pick someone who is financially responsible, stable, capable, and trustworthy
Consider naming co-personal representatives or co-successor trustees. You can choose more than one person to fulfill these duties. Be sure they can work together and that each one is capable. Having more than one person serve gives some checks and balances. On the other hand, it may make the process cumbersome. In any event, you should choose an alternate in case your first choice dies or is unable to serve.
Consider family dynamics. If you have several beneficiaries who don’t get along, you may want a personal representative or trustee who is independent of all parties. This is often a professional trustee, but can also be a trusted advisor who is not a beneficiary. Where there is little possibility of a contest or other complex issues, many people choose a family member.
You do not have to choose someone who lives nearby. Our office has recently received some panicked phone calls because our clients were told they have to name someone who lives in Nevada to be their trustee, personal representative, or agent under a power of attorney. That is not true. You may name someone who lives in another state to fill these roles.
Choose someone who has the time. It can be a lot of work to handle an estate or trust. This may include protecting the estate property, preparing an inventory of the property, paying valid claims against the estate, preparing and filing tax returns, liquidating property, and distributing the estate property to the beneficiaries. It is important to pick someone capable and who has the time.