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Choosing the Right Successor Trustee

As part of the Trust Administration department at Morris Hall, I work with successor trustees on a daily basis.  More often than not, a close family member is chosen to serve as successor trustee.  When this is the case, there are benefits as well as drawbacks.  The benefits often include an understanding of the decedent’s desires- even those not explicitly expressed.  This can mean anything, from knowing where the decedent would want clothing or other small items of personal property to go, to knowing how to deal with other family members and dynamics.

One of the drawbacks can also involve family dynamics.  In some cases, the role of successor trustee is synonymous with the role of a peacemaker.  It can be difficult for some to deal with this responsibility while they are also trying to go through the grieving process.  For most, the benefits of choosing a close family member, rather than a corporate trustee or friend, outweigh the drawbacks.  When making the choice, the duties of a successor trustee in administering the trust should be carefully considered.

In Arizona and most other states, there are statutory duties that a trustee must comply with.  These duties can also be expanded by the terms of a trust.  Either way, as a fiduciary, the successor trustee has a very high standard of care.  The broad duties associated with this fiduciary capacity should be kept in mind when the successor trustee selection is made.

Generally, a trustee has a duty of loyalty, a duty of prudence in trust investments, a duty of impartiality, and a duty to inform and account to beneficiaries.  The administration of a trust can be a lengthy and sometimes complicated process.  With this in mind, the ideal successor trustee is a person who is an effective communicator and who is hard-working, honest, fair, and meticulous.  The successor trustee must also be able to manage the needs and expectations of beneficiaries, all while acting in an impartial manner.

Because we are experienced in the processes involved in administration and are familiar with the laws, as well as the financial institutions that must be dealt with, we can help navigate a potentially quite complicated process.  The importance of selecting a suitable successor trustee cannot be overstated. However, you can rest assured that we are available to guide your trusted fiduciary through the process when called upon.

Andrea ClausContributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney Andrea Claus

Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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