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Updated: Mar 19

1.             Are they old enough or mature enough to handle the responsibility? One may be an adult at 18, but that does not mean they are adult enough or seasoned enough to handle the tasks and make the hard decisions.

2.             Are they dependable? If they aren’t dependable while you’re alive, they most certainly will not be once you no longer have your eye on them.

3.             Are they patient and diligent? It can take a lot of time and patience to dig in and administer an estate. Studies have shown it can take 400-500 hours of a trustee’s time to settle an estate.

4.             Do they have anger issues? Are they at odds with any other beneficiaries? Being a trustee is no small job and can wear a person out if they aren’t careful. If one is already stressed out or at odds with another beneficiary, they may not be your best choice. It could cost your estate dearly if family feuds erupt.

5.             Are they competent to serve as trustee? Appointing one’s spouse or sibling is quite common, but ask yourself is this person going to have the capacity to handle the enormity of tasks put upon them? Chances are they are at a similar age range as you are, would you want to have this responsibility?

6.             Do they have the mental capacity to serve? If somebody is dealing with severe mental health issues, the volume of tasks involved may increase the levels of stress they are dealing with.

7.             Is the role of trustee something they want to take on? Sometimes people don’t feel comfortable saying no to someone they love. And when they are sitting with you at your attorney’s office signing your estate planning documents, it seems simple enough to act as trustee for the love of their life, or their parent, friend, sibling, so they sign.

8.             Are they capable of handling the volume of work that will be upon them?  Sometimes we appoint somebody because we think they will feel badly if we don’t include them. This can happen with three siblings for instance. First off, most people feel relieved when you don’t appoint them. Secondly, if somebody feels bad, they can help the person who was appointed, I am sure they would appreciate that. But appointing a person who has no business handling something this important because you feel bad for them isn’t a good business decision.

9.             Do they have the time to commit to this project? Somebody may be the smartest person you know, completely capable and willing, but they have a full-time career, a family with several children, they volunteer for a political campaign, have many hobbies and a workout routine they never veer from. They may not have the time to devote to your estate in the way you would want them to.

10.         Are they honest and forthright? There are trustees who do not follow the rules and who take it upon themselves to do whatever they like with the assets. This can start a family fight the size of Texas. Make sure you know a person’s character and that they can be trusted before choosing them to represent your wishes.


Acting as trustee is no small task. Choosing the right trustee can take a lot of thought, planning and honest conversations, but in the end, it is all worth it.

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