Should I Appoint a Successor Trustee?

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    Should I Appoint a Successor Trustee?

    Should I Appoint a Successor Trustee?

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    When creating a trust in Florida, you should appoint a successor trustee to ensure the future of your wealth and your family is protected. Without one, you risk disputes, conflicts and even mismanagement from a court-approved trustee.

    In this blog, we’ll explain how and why you should appoint a successor trustee in Florida:

    What Is a Successor Trustee?

    A ‘Successor Trustee’ is a person appointed to manage, administer and distribute a trust after the original trustee creator (‘Grantor’) dies

    This person should be selected when the trust is formed, to ensure a smooth and problem-free transition. The responsibilities of a successor trustee will be determined by the instructions written by the Grantor.

    Successor Trustees should be appointed within the ‘Declaration of Trust’ document. This document will also explain their roles and responsibilities.

    Read Related: Guide for Executors and Trustees in Florida

    Should I Appoint a Successor Trustee?

    It is highly advised that you appoint a successor trustee when forming a trust. This is especially true when creating a revocable living trust. These types of trusts see you, the grantor, as the initial trustee.

    You will retain all the power to manage, use, invest and distribute your assets but also have peace of mind over its future after you pass away or become incapacitated.

    If you don’t appoint a successor trustee, a court will appoint a new one. This can be a terrible outcome, as the selected person may not be someone the family would like and could cause tensions and conflicts.

    When Does a Successor Trustee Become Active?

    After Death

    A successor trustee will take over the control of the trust when the grantor (trust creator) passes away. The Florida probate court is not required, allowing for a smooth transition. This can allow for near-instantaneous distribution and management of assets and funds.

    During Emergencies

    A successor trustee may also be called upon during times of need, such as:

    • If the initial trustee is incapacitated
    • The initial trustee is unable to complete their duties due to mental health
    • The initial trustee cannot meet the time or energy demands.
    • The initial trustee steps down.
    • The initial trustee violates their fiduciary duties and is removed.

    Until any of these circumstances arise, the successor trustee has no responsibilities, duties or obligations. However, it is usually advised that the successor trustee receives updates on the trust, to know where it stands once they take over.

    Read Related: How to Remove a Trustee in Florida

    Who is Involved in Appointing a Successor Trustee?

    When appointing a successor trustee, the grantor will first meet the selected individual to discuss the possibility of accepting the role. You will need to discuss their responsibilities, leaving no stone unturned. They must know what is expected of them.

    Once this step has been cleared and you’ve got the green light, you’ll need to review the Declaration of Trust and tell the Trustee where it will be stored. The same is true for any other important documents.

    You may also want to choose a secondary backup successor trustee, to account for any reason that may restrict your first choice; such as death, illness or life getting in the way.

    The only other person involved is an estate planning lawyer. These documents must be worded very carefully to avoid costly misinterpretation. Our lawyers can help you write the Declaration of Trust and other trust documents, so your wishes are kept for decades to come.

    Who Should I Appoint as Successor Trustee?

    Your successor trustee will act without court supervision, so you must think very carefully and wisely about who you appoint.

    This person will be acting in line with your best wishes and in the best interests of the beneficiaries, but will still need to make decisions of their own volition.

    We typically advise that you think of the following criteria:

    • Mature and cool-headed: You do not want someone who reacts to conflicts or relationships immaturely, with vengeance, spite or any other bad intentions. The trustee will need to communicate with your beneficiaries maturely and clearly.
    • Financially literate: The trustee will need to invest, sell or even buy assets which will require them to have a decent understanding of finances. They don’t need to be Warren Buffet, but they should have a solid understanding of taxes, accounting, investments and fidelity.
    • Trusted: The trustee must be someone you can trust. You don’t want to pick someone who would turn their back on you, fail to put in the sufficient effort or commit foul play or fraud.
    • Healthy: It’s not wise to pick someone who is in bad health or in their later years, as they may be unable to commit to their fiduciary duties in the future.
    • Family History: It can also be unwise to pick someone as a black sheep in the family. This individual may be unlikely or unable to communicate as easily with beneficiaries as required, leading to tensions and disputes.

    Common examples of individuals that are selected for successor trustees include:

    • Adult children
    • Close relatives
    • Close family friends
    • Estate planning lawyers
    • A trust company
    • Tax professional or financial advisor

    Contact a Trust Administration Attorney in Riverview and St. Petersburg for Trustee Appointments

    If you need to appoint a successor trustee or want to establish a trust in Florida, then our Florida trust administration lawyers can help.

    We regularly help people like you to draft water-tight legal documents or be appointed as the trustee itself.

    We welcome you to contact our Florida estate planning attorneys today for a free assessment if you have any questions or wish to get started.

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    Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With Award-winning experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you create an estate plan that protects your rights and wishes.

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