Wills and Estates Series – Part 2
In Part 1 of this series, we established the importance of having a properly drafted will.
With those benefits in mind, we move on to a very important question: Who should be appointed as Estate Trustee?
When deciding who to appoint, another question often comes up: Is it appropriate to appoint multiple individuals to act jointly as Estate Trustee to share the load? This question most commonly arises where a testator has multiple children, and does not want any of them to feel left out of the process of estate administration.
Having a single Estate Trustee can typically be more efficient; there is one person who must appear before banks, conduct real estate transactions and so on, meaning scheduling and planning become a more simple task. Further, the fact that a single person is acting does not absolve that person of fiduciary obligations to the beneficiaries, and the likely obligation to provide accurate estate accounts to those beneficiaries sharing in the residual distribution of the estate.
Finally, if the testator ultimately elects to appoint multiple individuals to act jointly as Estate Trustee, it is important to consider the working relationship between those individuals. Will they be of the same mind when it comes to selling real estate or making investments on behalf of the estate, or is there a possibility of a disagreement? Dispute resolution mechanisms (such as a majority decision provision) could be built into the will to mitigate these concerns, but those mechanisms only go so far. If a true breakdown between the individuals occurs the prospect of litigation looms.
Generally speaking, then, it is often prudent to choose the single best person to act in the role of Estate Trustee, and to appoint successors to act in the case where the chosen person is unable to do so, rather than having multiple individuals acting at the same time.
As always, this analysis has not been exhaustive and there are many considerations that go into choosing the correct Estate Trustee. We encourage you to seek out fulsome and individually tailored advice to assist you with your estate planning, including who to appoint as your Estate Trustee.
If you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog, or about wills and estates in general, please feel free to contact me directly.
Bradley D. Samuel
Associate with Corporate/Commercial and Estates Departments
Disclaimer: This article is provided as an information resource. This article should not be relied upon to make decisions and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified legal professional. In all cases, contact your legal professional for advice on any matter referenced in this document before making decisions. Any use of this document does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship. Please note that this information is current only to the date of posting. The law is constantly changing and always evolving.