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What should I know about appointing trustees of my estate?

Good estate planning is nothing more than laying the groundwork for what should happen after your death. Although estate planning can sometimes contain very complicated rules and procedures, it is really all about setting forth a plan and then granting authority to certain individuals to carry out specific aspects of that plan.

Unfortunately, many people who began their estate planning place more emphasis on developing the plan than identifying those individuals who will eventually have the responsibility to carry out those orders. In the lingo of estate planning, such individuals are known as trustees.

As the name implies, a trustee should be someone you trust to administer the details of your estate plan according to your best interests. One of the best ways to ensure that a trustee will act in accordance with your estate plan is to make sure that he or she does not have a conflict of interest. A good example of this might be a trustee who is also a beneficiary of your estate. In such an arrangement individuals granted trustee authority may abuse their powers to enrich themselves.

Another good strategy you may want to consider when naming a potential trustee is to first take their personal attributes into account. This can be especially important considering the duties you plan for him or her to carry out. For example, a trustee with little or no tax experience may not be well-suited for minimizing your estate's tax liabilities.

A consultation with a New York estate planning attorney can prove helpful when determining trustees. Your attorney will know about many potential complications your trustees might experience over time. With the proper guidance you can avoid many unforeseen financial or legal complications which may limit or destroy the ability of your trustee to administer your estate.

Source: The American Bar Association, "Twenty-five Things You Have to Know About Appointing Trustees" Steve R. Akers, accessed Mar. 23, 2015

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