The person you choose to serve as trustee plays an important role in the trust that you establish. They ultimately have control over the assets you use to fund the trust and have to handle the investments or maintenance of those assets for your beneficiaries.
Many testators invest hours of careful consideration into the decision of who would best serve as their trustees. Although many people select one specific individual to serve as trustee, that isn’t necessarily the only workable solution. Many people choose to name two or more people as co-trustees. What motivates someone to split that important responsibility between several people?
A desire for checks and balances
No matter how well you think you know someone, there’s no guarantee that they will behave in an ethical and appropriate manner when given control over substantial resources. Naming two or more people to share the responsibilities that come with the position of trustee helps ensure that one person can’t engage in misconduct without others noticing relatively quickly.
The hope of a long-lasting trust
Would you like your trust to persist for two or more generations? If so, naming a trustee the same age as you likely isn’t going to accomplish that goal. You will need someone younger the step into the role of trustee when the person in your age group can no longer handle those responsibilities.
Naming multiple trustees from different generations and providing instructions about naming future trustees to take over those roles can help ensure the proper management of your trust assets for years to come.
Concerns about family conflict
Perhaps you have children who constantly disagree or have remarried in your golden years, despite your children seemingly resenting that decision. Naming co-trustees can be a way to protect against family conflicts spilling over into trust administration.
One trustee will not have the authority to use their own perception of the situation or relationship with the beneficiaries to influence their interpretation of your documents if there are other trustees also capable of overseeing and managing trust assets.
People may also want to partner a relative or friend who serves as trustee with a professional trustee who can take over fully when their direct acquaintance is no longer capable of fulfilling trust obligations. Exploring different solutions for a trust included in your estate plan will make it easier for you to leave a lasting legacy.