Floridians who are beginning to think about estate planning may want to try to avoid the probate process. One way for people to pass their assets on to successive generations is by establishing trusts while they are still alive. It is important to be careful when deciding who to name as a successor trustee.
Trusts do not pass through probate, allowing assets to be passed to the intended beneficiaries with a greater degree of privacy. The trusts are administered by trustees, who are tasked with managing the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries and following the trusts' mandates. Administering a trust can be highly technical in nature and time-consuming.
When people draft trusts, they normally name themselves as the initial trustees and manage the assets themselves while they are still living. When they die, the role will then normally be transferred to their spouses. When the surviving spouses die, successor trustees step in to administer the trusts. Children are often named as successor trustees, but it is important that they understand the time they will need to devote to their duties as well as the legal knowledge that they will need to understand and use. If the children have interpersonal conflicts, it may be wiser to choose someone else to serve as successor trustees such as professional fiduciaries or banks. Friends may also be named, but they should be highly trusted.
Trust planning involves numerous considerations, and people might benefit by getting help from experienced estate planning attorneys who can help their clients with establishing their trusts and identifying the most appropriate parties to name as successor trustees. This may help the grantors to feel more comfortable that their wishes will be followed and that their beneficiaries will be protected.