A trustee is a person who, upon your death, is responsible for carrying out your wishes and administering your succession. With these important responsibilities, it’s important you choose him or her carefully.
The trustee’s responsibilities
The trustee’s duties include the following:
- Take into account the legislative provisions pertaining to the liquidation of the succession, division of the family patrimony and matrimonial regime, if applicable, and tax and insurance laws.
- See to the sound temporary administration of the succession.
- Make decisions that are in the best interests of the heirs.
A trustee must also:
- Act prudently and diligently, as they may be held personally liable for errors or omissions.
- Remain impartial to guarantee that each heir is treated fairly and equitably.
A good trustee
Before making a final decision, make sure your trustee:
- is trustworthy
- has the skills and time required to accomplish the task
- will be able to treat family members fairly and objectively
Given the complex nature of the task, many people prefer to put together a team of trustees. They appoint a private trustee, often someone close to them who will know how to find the deceased’s documents and simplify the inventory of assets. The private trustee works with a professional trustee who has the required tax and legal knowledge, such as a notary, lawyer, accountant or trust company. Even though this means additional costs for the estate, a professional trustee’s valuable expertise could prevent family members from making financial or tax decisions detrimental to them.
Being trustee of an estate can take up to 1 year, or more if the estate is complex. If the trustee does not live in the vicinity, he or she will have to make frequent trips to your area. Trustees must be available to do the legwork and take part in many meetings. In your will, you can set aside an amount to compensate the trustee for his or her work. For tax reasons, you may want to leave a bequest in lieu of compensation, to prevent the trustee from having to pay taxes on the fees.