Selecting Your Trustee: Vetting the Family Member

Selecting Your Trustee: Vetting the Family Member

Article posted in Practice on 3 September 2014| comments
audience: National Publication, Daniel P Felix - The Professional Trustee | last updated: 3 September 2014


Some trusts demand the service of a professional -- like blended families.

On the other hand, some trusts can be excellent opportunities for family members to serve. But how to determine whether a particular family member has what it takes?

By Dan Felix

So, who will serve as the trustee, now or after you are unable to do so yourself?

Many people think that a beloved and trusted family member makes the best trustee. Let’s call him Uncle Murray. Uncle Murray gets along with your children, loves them as family should. He is respectable and is doing well in his own business and family.

Why not Uncle Murray? Well, he could be perfect – not to mention: he’s willing to serve for free! – on the other hand, he could be a disaster and add to the list of lawsuits against family trustees. Before drafting Uncle Murray, consider a few questions:

1. Is he ready to weather the torrent of family dynamics? Is he grounded in emotional intelligence and prepared to successfully navigate the forecasted emotional storms?

2. Is he also meticulous, responsive and practical…

a. Meticulous – to keep records & meet deadlines & comply with legal details

b. Responsive – to evolving financial & personal needs when the time demands

c. Prudent & Wise - the old-fashioned virtues haven’t gone out of style

3. Can he be impartial and independent – from the pulls of his own self interest? His family? And, as needed, from any unreasonable demands of your children as well?

4. Is he a learner, a reader and improver striving for greater excellence? There’s a lot to learn about the art and science of trust administration!

5. Can he work well with your other trusted advisors?

6. Is he willing to seek out help – be it medical, legal, financial, relational, a successor to himself – if it could assist him in his role?

7. Is he proficient in “both &” – so he can attend to both the details & the big picture, both the letter of your trust & its spirit, both the demands of the future & the present?

8. Does he have the time to devote - both now to get up to speed as well as later?

9. Does he have any health issues or other distractions?

10. To err is human: is Uncle Murray insured and bonded – or does he have sufficient personal resources to make good in the event of snafu?

If the answers to the above are all “yes”, Murray is your man. Otherwise, consider a professional trustee. Your kids as well as Uncle Murray may be eternally grateful.

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