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Naming Children as Trustees

As previously mentioned, naming your children in order of birth as your disability or death trustees may not be the best approach.  Over the years, many clients have shared with us that they feel some moral obligation to name the oldest child first.  In other situations, clients have shared they think the oldest child would feel slighted if they were not named as the first backup trustee.

Each of these concerns is predicated on a false assumption that the only factor taken into consideration when selecting which child will serve is the order of birth.  Also consider:

  • Does a child have the flexibility with their work schedule to take time off of work to attend meetings with the law firm, the CPA, the financial advisor, the insurance professional, and the banker?  A trustee should expect to spend a considerable amount of time in fulfilling their duties.

  • Does a child have the financial experience to understand various types of investments?

  • What is the nature of the relationship the child has with their siblings?  Are they peacemaker in the family or is this child a lightning rod for drama?

  • To what extent will this child be able to make decisions without being influenced by their spouse?

  • How does the child handle stressful situations?  Will they be able to make decisions when under stress or will they be overwhelmed by grief and not able to act effectively?

  • Is the child geographically close to your home and professional advisors.  A child that lives on the other side of the country may find fulfilling their duties as trustee to be significantly complicated by distance.

  • What is the nature of their communication skills?  In winding down a person’s affairs, tight lips sink ships.  Simply put, the trustee will need to have good communication skills so they can provide sufficient details as to the status of the settlement to the other beneficiaries.

In reviewing this list, it is unlikely that any one person will possess all of these characteristics.  For this reason, you may wish to consider pairing your backup trustees.  Thus one co-trustee’s weakness may be another co-trustee’s strength.  To maintain some degree of manageability, we do not recommend naming more than three co-trustees to serve at any one time.

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