7th May 2013
Selecting the right person to be the trustee or successor trustee is the most important decision in forming a living trust.
It is not by mistake that “trusts” are called “trusts”.
I recently was retained by someone whose mother had been murdered by her own son. I investigated the matter and discovered that the murdered mother had her home in title to a living trust. I dug a little deeper and found out the successor trustee and sole beneficiary of that trust was the alleged murderer.
Needless to say, the decedent failed to make the right decision in the selection of the successor trustee.
There are 4 main qualifications in general for a successor trustee:
1. Integrity: The trustee must be a person of high moral character, trust, and honesty.
2. Effectiveness: The trustee must be someone who will get the job done. It is not enough that the trustee is honest, but the trustee must be effective.
3. Younger is better than older: You want the successor trustee to survive you, and thus, a younger person is more desirable as a trustee, if the first 2 qualifications are met.
4. Closer is better than far away: All things being equal, a successor trustee who lives close by will have an easier time administering the trust, than a trustee who lives on the other side of the world from the trust creator.
The first 2 qualifications are the most important. Never appoint a trustee because you “hope” they will be honest, or because you feel sorry for them, or because you don’t want them to feel bad that you didn’t name them the trustee.
DWIGHT EDWARD TOMPKINS,
Orange County Living Trust Attorney.