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Choosing the best trustee: Consider these 4 options

Choosing a trustee is easier said than done, as any mistake can cost you and/or your family time and money now and in the future.

Before we discuss the many categories of trustee, you should first learn the basics of what to look for:

  • Someone who will act in your best interest, no matter what's going on with respect to the individual's own life
  • Someone who has a basic understanding of estate planning and finances
  • Someone who has the time and necessary dedication to serve as a trustee
  • Someone you can trust, inside and out, even when times get tough

At this point, you may have a few people in mind that would make a good trustee. Conversely, you may be struggling to think of someone to appoint.

Here is where you should begin your search:

  • Family member: This is the most common option, with many people naming a spouse or adult child as trustee. The benefits are obvious, but the primary concern is that the person may not be able to make sound decisions if something happens to you.
  • Friends: A close friend may have a clear understanding of your wishes, thus giving you the confidence necessary to name him or her trustee. Before making this decision, be sure the person is 100 percent on board with the idea.
  • Corporate trustee: There are independent trust companies that are more than willing to act as your trustee. This is the best way to find someone with experience and knowledge across the board, but you must take into consideration the impersonal relationship and fees.
  • Accountant or attorney: Depending on your relationship with your accountant or attorney, this person may be a good choice as your trustee. Again, make sure he or she has the expertise necessary to serve your needs.

Many people know whom they want to name as their trustee, such as a spouse, and immediately take action. Others have to think longer about this decision, often because they don't know whom they can and can't trust.

It's important to understand the responsibilities of your trustee, as this will improve your ability to choose the right person. As you close in on a decision, consider all your options by comparing the pros and cons. This will help you make a confident choice.

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