Trustee Selection


The person who assumes control of a trust after the initial trustee dies or becomes unable to continue with his or her responsibilities, is called a successor trustee. But some cases of trust transition are not that cut and dry… So having a “co-trustee” named rather than a “successor trustee” may be a better option. Let’s look at an example. If your mom or dad becomes incapacitated — say they suffer a stroke or a coma… You, as a successor trustee… Would take control of the trust. But if they are suffering a slow mental decline, and you think you may need to have control over the trust to protect them, you could be in for a battle. If you are named only as the “successor” trustee, they may not be willing to relinquish control to you. And it’s nearly impossible to have documents changed or get access to financial accounts, at that point. If cognitive skills are diminishing — but your mom or dad has good days and bad days… A doctor will probably not give you a letter of incapacity. That leaves you will the unpleasant option of trying to become their court-appointed guardian. It’s embarrassing for them — and potentially heart-wrenching for you. Or you could try to convince them to resign their position as primary trustee — which may upset them and leave them paranoid about your motives. It’s never an easy situation, so it’s best, in almost every case, to have a designated co-trustee.  That way, you or someone they trust can handle all medical legal and financial affairs if they are unable to. If you have questions about this process, or any estate planning issue, call Doane and Doane… Or visit