When you first created your estate plan involving a living trust, your spouse may have been the most logical choice to serve as your successor trustee after you pass. Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future—we can only do our best to plan for all of the possible outcomes. Your spouse may ultimately predecease you. When that happens, it is very important to update your estate plan to appoint a new successor trustee of your trust.
Who to Consider as a New Successor Trustee
Now that your spouse is no longer able to serve as a successor trustee, there are many possibilities for replacements. Your attorney can help you talk through the pros and cons of each option. Typically, however, you will find yourself considering one of the following choices:
- One or more of your children. Children are sometimes an appropriate choice as a new successor trustee. However, there are many instances where naming a child could cause potential issues and conflicts during a trust administration. For this reason, it is important to consider this option carefully before modifying your estate plan.
- A trusted advisor. This advisor might be a CPA, financial planner, or other individual with a working knowledge of your affairs.
- A trusted friend. A friend may also be an appropriate choice to serve as a successor trustee after your spouse has passed. However, it is important to consider many factors, such as where your friend resides, how responsible the friend is, and whether he is willing to accept this obligation. For example, if the friend lives outside of Orange County, he may be less accessible and therefore not the best choice for a successor trustee.
- Another family member. Perhaps there is another family member, such as a cousin, sibling, or aunt, who would make an appropriate successor trustee. In some cases, the best choice for a successor trustee is someone who is not also a beneficiary. The advantage to using a family member is that he likely has a pre-existing relationship with the beneficiaries, which is helpful during administration.
- A professional trustee. A professional trustee may be the best choice now that your spouse has passed. This individual or entity will be unbiased and is well-versed in the ins and outs of a trust administration.
Ultimately, the best choice for a successor trustee as you modify your estate plan will depend upon the unique facts and circumstances surrounding your trust. To stay current on this and other issues surrounding estate planning and trust administration, we encourage you to sign up for our free newsletter today or to attend one of our free monthly seminars.