Should You Designate One Trustee or Multiple Co-Trustees of Your Trust

A really amazing couple just left my office. They were going on an overseas trip soon and wanted to make sure their estate planning program was in order.

We dealt with many different issues. They have several children. One of their decisions was who would be the trustee or co-trustees of their revocable living trust when they pass away.

We had the typical discussion that we have with folks. They had no desire to name a corporate or bank trustee - very few folks name a corporate trustee of their revocable living trust because they are trying to avoid their estates being dragged through big-corporation, big-law, or big-courthouse.

Most families name on or more of their children as the Successor Trustees of their trust. This keeps all the assets in the family because a family member/trustee will often serve without taxable compensation. In fact, you can require that your Successor Trustee serve without compensation.

Some Settlors of trusts ask if they should name one trustee or two or more Successor Co-Trustees. There is no right answer to this question - it's a personal preference on your part. Some people feel the trust administration is simpler with one Successor Trustee. Others like the checks and balances that exist when you have two or more Successor Co-Trustees. If you name two or more, you should describe whether they must always act together or whether they can act independently of each other.

I explained to this couple that their Successor Trustee's jobs after the Mom and Dad die will be, perhaps, to sell the family home and disburse the proceeds to the children/beneficiaries; transfer other trust real estate to the beneficiaries as designated in their trust instrument; and to work with banks and other financial institutions that hold trust funds to ensure that these funds are disbursed to the trust beneficiaries. 

The clients liked that their Successor Co-Trustees will be able to immediately do this after Mom and Dad pass away, without having to go through a probate proceeding. They like the idea that things in a trust avoid having to go through the courts to be sold or transferred.