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What is the role of your successor trustee?

Answering that question could help you choose who you would like to fulfill that role. When you started estate planning, you probably discovered that having a revocable living trust would greatly benefit you and your family. You serve as the trustee and still use and control your assets, which includes putting assets in and taking them out when necessary.

The question then becomes what happens after you pass away? You will need to appoint a successor trustee to take over the administration of your trust. You may want to know more about what he or she will need to do in order to successfully undertake this task.

What does a successor trustee do?

First, upon your death, your successor trustee steps into the role of administering the trust. That entails undertaking the following duties:

  • Obtain an appraisal of the assets in the trust
  • Set aside funds for trust administration expenses
  • Determine and pay tax liabilities
  • Invest applicable assets in the trust
  • Monitor and manage all assets in the trust
  • Distribute trust assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the trust

Unless otherwise stated in your trust, there is no definitive end to your successor trustee's duties. You need to make sure to consider this aspect of the job when you choose someone. Moreover, you may want to discuss the potential appointment with whomever you choose to make sure he or she is willing to take on these responsibilities for the duration, whatever that might entail.

Another factor you need to consider is how much you trust the individual to perform the duties in such a way that your beneficiaries will benefit from it as much as you intend. He or she doesn't necessarily have to understand accounting or the law. Instead, your successor trustee really only needs to understand the duties undertaken and know where to find assistance when needed.

Benefit from a knowledgeable attorney

You could find this decision easy or difficult. In either case, you may want to consult with an estate-planning attorney before making your final choice. He or she may provide answers to questions you didn't know you had that could influence your choice. You want to make sure that the person you choose provides you with the peace of mind that your assets and your beneficiaries are in good hands when you are no longer available to care for them.

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