The Importance of a Successor Trustee

An estate plan centered around a revocable living trust is not just about preparing for the future – it’s about protecting yourself and your loved ones throughout life’s journey. Unlike other options, a revocable living trust allows you to maintain control and privacy over your assets while potentially saving your family the complexities of probate.

When does a successor trustee step in?

If you’ve set up a revocable living trust, you’re familiar with the concept of a trustee – someone who manages your assets according to your wishes. Initially, you (and possibly your spouse) act as the trustee. However, there may come a time when you’re unable to continue due to incapacity or eventually upon your passing. This is where your chosen successor trustee plays a crucial role.

  • Incapacity: At some point, you may no longer be able to handle financial decisions. Your successor trustee steps in to manage and use trust assets for your benefit, ensuring continuity without court involvement.
  • Upon Death: When you pass away, your successor trustee takes over to distribute assets according to your wishes outlined in the trust, avoiding probate and ensuring your directives are followed.

What are the duties of a successor trustee?

While managing trust assets, your successor trustee must uphold legal responsibilities. They act as a fiduciary, obligated to prioritize beneficiaries’ interests and handle assets impartially. They cannot use trust assets for personal gain or engage in transactions that create conflicts of interest.

Preparing Your Successor Trustee

To ensure your estate plan operates smoothly:

  • Keep Documents Current: Regularly update your estate plan to reflect changes in circumstances and ensure your successor trustee has accurate instructions.
  • Review Trust Details: Confirm your chosen successor trustee is still suitable and consider naming a backup. Review beneficiary details to align with current intentions.
  • Coordinate Financial and Health Documents: Ensure your financial power of attorney and healthcare directives align with your trust. This coordination ensures seamless management across all aspects of your estate.

Communication is Key

Discuss your estate plan openly with your successor trustee. Whether a family member, friend, or professional trustee, clarity is essential:

  • Privacy: Start by outlining their role and where to find necessary documents. Provide contact information for your advisors.
  • General Overview: Share basic details about your estate plan without disclosing specific amounts. Highlight special considerations or goals.
  • Comprehensive Discussion: For full transparency, go through each document together. This approach ensures everyone is informed and prepared.

We Are Here to Help

At Cheever Law, APC, we don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for yourself and the people you love, starting with a valuable and educational Life & Legacy Planning Session. This will allow you to get more financially organized and make the best choices for the people you love. If you have already completed your estate plan, we will review that plan at your Life & Legacy Planning Session to ensure that it will work the way you intend and address any holes or gaps that may be present if circumstances have changed since you executed your plan.   

To learn more about our one-of-a-kind systems and services, contact us or schedule a no-obligation 15-minute introductory phone call today.