Should I Name Co-Trustees in My Trust? What Happens When They Disagree?

Selecting suitable trustees for your trust is a crucial decision that affects the management and execution of your estate plans. Many opt for co-trustees, sharing the responsibilities between two or more individuals. This choice can bring varied skills and perspectives to trust management but also introduces the potential for disagreement. The dynamics of co-trusteeship are important for the smooth operation of your trust and for ensuring your wishes are effectively carried out.

Understanding Co-Trustees

Co-trustees are individuals appointed to manage a trust together, each holding equal authority and responsibility over the trust’s assets. This arrangement is often chosen to ensure a balanced approach to trust management, combining different strengths and perspectives. With co-trustees, decisions about the trust must typically be made unanimously, promoting cooperation and consensus. However, this can also lead to challenges if the trustees’ opinions diverge. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of co-trustees, as well as how they should collaborate, is essential for anyone considering this option for their estate planning. It’s about ensuring that the trust operates smoothly and according to the grantor’s intentions, with safeguards in place to resolve any potential disputes.

Considerations Before Naming Co-Trustees

Before naming co-trustees, you should evaluate several key factors. First, consider the relationship between potential co-trustees; they should have a history of mutual respect and effective communication. The complexity of the trust is another vital aspect to consider; more intricate trusts may benefit from co-trustees with diverse expertise, while simpler ones might not require multiple managers. Geographic location can also play a significant role; co-trustees living near each other or the trust assets may face fewer logistical challenges. Finally, think about the potential trustees’ willingness and ability to serve together, their time availability, and their financial or legal acumen. These considerations can significantly influence the functionality and harmony of trust administration.

What Happens When Co-Trustees Disagree?

When co-trustees disagree, it can halt the administration of a trust, leading to delays and potentially harming the trust’s beneficiaries. Typically, trust documents outline procedures for resolving disputes, which may include mediation or arbitration. If the disagreement persists and no internal resolution is possible, co-trustees might need to seek a court’s intervention to resolve the conflict. This judicial process can be time-consuming and costly, potentially depleting the trust’s assets. Therefore, it’s crucial for co-trustees to attempt to resolve disagreements amicably and in accordance with the trust’s terms, keeping the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind. Effective communication and a willingness to compromise are key to managing such disputes.

Pros and Cons of Naming Co-Trustees

Naming co-trustees comes with its set of advantages and drawbacks. On the positive side, it allows for shared responsibility, reducing the burden on a single trustee and bringing diverse perspectives and skills to the management of the trust. This can enhance decision-making and provide a system of checks and balances. However, the cons include the potential for disagreement and deadlock, which can impede the trust’s administration and lead to costly legal disputes. Additionally, coordinating between multiple trustees can complicate communication and decision-making processes. Therefore, when considering co-trustees, you should weigh these pros and cons against the specific needs and circumstances of your trust and beneficiaries.

Get Help Choosing Trustees for Your Trust

OC Wills and Trust Attorneys can guide you through the complexities of choosing the right trustees for your trust. Contact us for a consultation and let’s secure your legacy together.

Brian Chew, the managing partner of OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, business succession planning, long-term care planning, and veterans’ benefits. By devoting his practice to estate planning matters, he has founded a firm that strives to provide exceptional service to their clients by working closely with individuals and their families to create comprehensive and customized estate plans. For the past twenty five years, Brian has served thousands of clients in the matters of estate planning, wills and trusts. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Brian Chew here.