Last updated on March 26th, 2019
When you and your Virginia attorney are discussing your estate planning options, it’s likely you’ll discuss living trusts and how to choose the right Virginia trustee.
A living trust is a written legal document that transfers your assets into a trust. When you die, the trusts assets are then transferred to your beneficiaries without having to pass through the probate process.
When making a living trust, one key component will be choosing the right trustee to ensure your instructions are followed. Use this guide to learn more about choosing a trustee and understanding the responsibilities a trustee has.
What is a trustee?
The trustee of a Virginia living trust is the person who manages your trust and ultimately transfers trust property to your chosen beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are the people that you choose to leave trust property to.
First Choice Trustee
A first choice trustee is the person you initially choose to stand in this role. With that said, the person who has created the living trust often chooses themselves to be the initial trustee. This is done so that you have complete control of your trust property while you’re alive.
If you’re married and decide to create a living trust, both you and your spouse are allowed to be co-trustees. With a shared living trust, if one of you passes away, the surviving spouse will become the sole trustee.
If you would like to choose someone else as your trustee, you should be aware of the potential risks you may face. In general, this may mean crafting a more detailed trust document when outlining your trustee’s control powers.
A successor trustee is the person who assumes the role of trustee after the first choice trustee is no longer able to fulfill their responsibilities.
In the scenario listed above, where you designate yourself as the first choice trustee, your successor trustee begins to manage the trust upon your death.
The successor trustee will primarily be responsible for transferring your property to your beneficiaries when you pass away.
In this role, a successor trustee must get a hold of your death certificate and the living trust document and present it to all parties that take care of your assets. These third parties generally include financial brokers and banks.
If you need to prepare any other documents to make this transfer happen, it’s your successor trustee’s responsibility to take care of it.
Another important responsibility of a successor trustee is managing the distribution of your property. For example, if you leave furniture for your nephew that’s moving into their first apartment soon, it’s their job to make sure this happens as well.
In Virginia, it’s mandatory that your Virginia trustee notifies all beneficiaries within 60 days of the moment your living trust becomes irrevocable (when you pass away). They must also present them with a copy of your living trust document.
In the written notice, your trustee should include the date you passed away, your name and important information, their contact information, and, most importantly, a copy of the living trust.
How do I know I’m making the right choice?
When choosing someone to serve as your trustee you should make sure that your potential candidates are responsible, trustworthy, and reliable.
Most often, people usually choose their spouse or adult children to be their trustees since those are the people they’re closest too. It’s important to note that your trustee needs to be young enough to survive you and old enough to work in this role.
A trustee also needs to be someone that is close enough in proximity to you, so that they can contact beneficiaries, handle important paperwork, and complete all of the other steps in the living trust process.
In addition to close friends and family, organizations like banks, and even lawyers or law firms, may function as trustee. Even when selecting a family member or friend as trustee, it’s a good idea to make sure they can get in contact with a lawyer or professional familiar with the responsibilities of a Virginia trustee.
After reading this guide, you should have more knowledge when it comes to picking the right person as your Virginia trustee in your living trust. Because this role requires careful action, it’s important to have an estate planning attorney that will both help you and your Virginia trustee manage trust property.