Natalie Spiwak November 9, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Who should be named as your trustee?

A trust can be one of the most important decisions you make for you, your family, and your assets. Therefore, choosing the appropriate person to administer your estate is critical.

Initially, when a trust is created, a trustee holds legal title to property for another person, called a “beneficiary.” Considering who to choose and how best that person will take charge of your trust assets after your death is an important decision. The first factor to consider when choosing a trustee is to ascertain that person’s ability to handle a multitude of tasks and decisions. The trustee should be a person who is well equipped to handle stress, is organized, and able to complete tasks in a timely manner. Your chosen trustee will be required to act in the best interests of the trust and make the trust assets as profitable as possible.

The next factors to consider are the trustee’s ability to handle finances while (hopefully) possessing a healthy dose of common sense. An ideal trustee will have the ability to pay all of the bills of the estate, ensure that all of the taxes are paid, and the estate is distributed exactly as delineated in the trust document. With that said, choosing a person who knows when it’s time to involve an expert is important. You want someone who won’t be afraid to research and ask for help and who has good, basic business sense.

A trustee can be a family member, friend, professional fiduciary or bank trust department. If you decide to use a family member or friend, you should ask him or her if they agree to serve in this role. And, you want to take into account the person’s age and health and the likelihood of that person being around to administer your estate. A trustee has to outlive you, so you wouldn’t want to name your brother or sister if they are your age or older. Also, you will want to name a primary trustee and one or two alternates who will serve in succession. Oftentimes, clients will want to name joint trustees; however, this can cause problems if the joint trustees are unable to agree on how to administer the estate. If you are using a family member or friend as a trustee, you want to carefully consider who you are choosing and if he or she is the best choice for this crucial role.

Finally, many individuals choose to use a neutral third party to administer their estate. One option is to use a professional fiduciary. These individuals are licensed by the State of California and the website to locate an appropriate fiduciary is: On that website, you can search local professional fiduciaries, how long he or she has been in business, and the amount of assets he or she is managing.  If you plan to use a professional fiduciary, you may want to interview several before choosing one. It's important to carefully consider who you pick as your trustee. Also, remember that if you have a revocable living trust, you can amend the living trust and change the named trustee, at a later date.

Contact Natalie to discuss your estate needs at (323) 251-7059.


Natalie Spiwak

Natalie Spiwak is the CEO and Founder of Affinity Trusts.  Affinity Trusts aligns with the leading estate planning law firm, Citadel Law Corporation, to provide SAFE Credit Union members a complete range of advanced estate planning services. By providing accessible seminars, and engaging in personal dialogue with clients about estate planning, Affinity Trusts serves the life-planning needs of many with a high level of passion, expertise and integrity.  When not busy with her clients, Natalie loves spending time with her two young children and because she also has a degree in archeology, loves traveling the world!