The Trustee is the person in charge of managing and investing Trust assets and making distributions (if the terms of the Trust require it) to the Trust’s beneficiaries. Thus, one of the most important decisions you (the “Trustor”) will have to make during the estate planning process (before you can establish a Trust) is to choose your Trustee(s) and Successor Trustee(s). Generally, the Trustor (the person who creates the Trust) will act as his/her own Trustee, and will remain Trustee until he/she becomes incapacitated (e.g. has an illness and can’t manage his/her own financial affairs) or dies. By acting as his/her own Trustee, this ensures that he/she will be the only person to maintain control of Trust assets.
On incapacity or death, however, the initial Trustee will be replaced by a Successor Trustee(s). As such, it is critically important that you choose not only someone you “trust” (pardon the pun), but someone who has a sufficient level of maturity, integrity and financial acumen. Remember, your Successor Trustee will have legal authority to manage, invest, sell, and encumber (to name only a few Trustee powers) the Trust’s assets. More often than not, clients choose family members and/or friends as their Successor Trustee(s).