9 Key Qualities to Look for When Naming a Trustee

So, you’ve decided to set up a trust. If you want to ensure that your trust is executed in exactly the manner in which you intended, it is absolutely vital that you select an appropriate trustee to administer your trust.

While the specific duties of a trustee may vary depending on the type of trust being administered and your wishes for the trust, there are several overarching qualities which most effective trustees share. We have detailed nine of these key qualities below:

1) Willingness – Your trustee must be willing to undertake his or her (or its, if we are talking about a corporate trustee) duties. Serving as a trustee can be a difficult and complex job, and even those who receive compensation may think twice about wanting to perform those duties. Ensure the trustee you select is willing to do what is necessary to administer your trust.

2) Time – Simply by their nature, certain types of trusts involve a significant time commitment. Many trustees may find themselves administering a trust for years. Ensure your trustee has the time to properly fulfill duties.  You may also want to consider age if selecting an individual trustee. If you anticipate the trustee’s duties lasting for many years, you may not want to select someone who is already of an advanced age; if you do, you will certainly need to name a contingent trustee.

3) Reliability – Perhaps the single most important quality one should consider when selecting a trustee is whether or not the person (or institution) can reliably handle duties. There is far too much at stake to select someone whom you are not certain you can rely upon.

4) Unbiased – You will want to select a trustee who has no conflict of interest in administering your trust. As a fiduciary, your trustee is legally and ethically bound to act only in the best interests of your beneficiary(ies) with no considerations for personal gain. If you believe your potential trustee could have a bias which would cause a conflict of interest, then choose another trustee.  

5) Integrity – The fiduciary duty owed by a trustee to a beneficiary is one of the highest standards of care that exists in law. Your choice for a trustee must be unquestionably trustworthy.

6) Resolute – Particularly if you expect challenges to your wishes regarding your trust, your trustee should be resolute in fulfilling duties exactly as you intended without being swayed by relatives or even the beneficiary to act differently or to corrupt the trustee’s purpose.

7) Organized – Administering the duties of a trustee can be a complex job. It is one that oftentimes requires the utmost organization in order to avoid making mistakes and fulfill all requirements necessary for legal compliance. Your trustee should be someone who is extremely organized.

8) Proximity – The location of your potential trustee is a matter of practicality.  It may not always be possible to select a local trustee, but the proximity of the trustee can be a major factor in your decision. In order to act as efficiently and effectively as possible, the trustee may need to be present in the jurisdiction in which you lived. If the trustee lives elsewhere, this could result in a significant amount of travel which the trustee is not willing to undertake.

9) Financial competence – Financial competence is not necessarily integral to the duties of a trustee, but it certainly does not hurt. However, if you want to select someone as a trustee but are concerned about financial abilities, you could name a trust advisor, a co-trustee, or even mandate that the trustee utilize financial professionals when necessary to effectively fulfill duties.

Keep in mind, while there are many qualities that should be consistent in just about any trustee, your specific requirements in a trustee may vary based on your goals and circumstances. Contact the Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A. today and let us work to ensure that your legacy unfolds in exactly the way it was envisioned.

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.