By Libby Banks, The Law Office of Libby Banks

At some point your estate will be managed by someone other than you, either because you are incapacitated and can’t manage your own affairs, or upon your death. When you establish a Revocable Living Trust, the person in charge is your successor trustee. A common question is just how to pick the successor trustee. Here are qualities to look for in a successor trustee:

  1. Integrity and loyalty
    For me, this is the most important quality. It is terrible to get the call that a trustee has been mishandling money or filling their own pockets. It is essential to select someone you trust implicitly, someone you believe would never consider misusing the trust assets.
  2. General business competence and willingness to seek assistance
    You might think you need an investment savvy trustee. However, someone who is willing to seek out and listen to good counsel and advice, and can discern between good and bad advice, is a very good choice. Your trustee’s understanding of financial matters and ability to find good advisors is more important than their (perceived) ability to pick winning stocks.
  3. Understanding your beneficiaries’ needs and circumstances
    Your trustee should be someone responsive to your beneficiaries’ needs and requests. A family member is usually a good choice, but if you want a corporate trustee to serve, be sure the person who is the primary contact for the trustee is located in Arizona.
  4. Similar values and attitudes about money
    It is important for a trustee to understand your philosophy in providing for your beneficiaries. If learning to work hard and make your own way is important to you, don’t pick a trustee that indulges every whim for a child. If you want a beneficiary to have the opportunity to learn how to manage the trust assets, pick a trustee who is willing to involve the beneficiary in decision making.
  5. Willingness and ability to serve
    Always ask whether the trustee is willing to serve. The initial work of a trustee can be quite time consuming, and ongoing maintenance and accounting take time as well.
  6. Geographic location
    With technology, the location of your trustee and beneficiaries is not as important today. Still, the nature of your assets may suggest you pick a local trustee. For instance, if you own several rental properties in Phoenix, a trustee in New York won’t be able to readily check on the property manager, and the properties may be run down and lose value before the long distance trustee realizes it.
  7. Cost and amount of estate assets
    Banks and trust companies generally charge based on a percentage of the assets under management and won’t be trustee unless the estate is at least $2 million (or more). Private fiduciaries licensed by the state generally charge on an hourly basis. A family member or friend may be willing to manage your estate. You should provide compensation for the work the trustee performs, even if he is your brother.

Selecting a trustee is important, and I’m happy to help you as you make your choice of trustees. Call for our free initial consultation at 602-375-6752, or make an appointment at our website: