How Do I Choose a Trustee in California?

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Sibylle Grebe - Estate Planning & Probate - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Sibylle Grebe

Located in Torrance, CAThe Probate House L.C.

Phone: (310) 542-9888
Fax: 310-542-1588

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Very carefully – this important decision can protect loved ones and ensure they have adequate resources. A trustee is responsible for managing and distributing the assets according to the terms of your trust. It is important that you identify individuals who will effectively protect your loved ones and ensure they have adequate resources based on your wishes. As a best practice, we also recommend that you name at least two, if not three backup successor trustees.

Recognize that in many circumstances, an adult child (maybe the oldest or your accountant) might not be your best option. Differences in opinion between trustee and beneficiaries about actual “needs” can cause conflict. Is a plasma television or Hulu+ subscription with HBO or Showtime add-ons necessary? A trustee who gives in and approves every request may cause problems and conflict between beneficiaries. Avoid giving this power to anyone who has acted vindictively or holds onto long-term grudges. 

Remember, your Trustee has to follow your wishes as spelled out in your Trust document.

Prudent Decision-Making Abilities

Consider naming a trusted friend or relative with a level head who will make economic, prudent choices and follow your stated wishes. You may want to have a conversation with this person to make sure that they are willing to take on the responsibility before finalizing any documents. You may not want this responsibility to come as a surprise.

I Don’t Have Anyone to Name

If you do not know anyone who would be able or willing to fill this role, you can name a professional trustee. A bank with a trust department will usually offer these services. Also, you may choose to appoint a professional fiduciary, such as those appointed by the Court for Conservatorship/Trust matters.  Your attorney may provide you with some choices and recommendations. These professional trustees are fiduciaries licensed by a California state board.

My Trust Only Has One Beneficiary

In some cases, you may name a sole beneficiary as the trustee. This may come up with a living trust set up to manage and protect money for your care while you are still alive. You may name an only child to step in as trustee if you become incapacitated.

For individualized legal counsel, there is no substitute for speaking with an experienced estate planning

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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