As you consider who to appoint as a trustee or co-trustee for a trust, you may wonder whether these individuals are required to act jointly or if they can act independently. Let’s delve into this question and explore the authority trustees have when navigating the trust administration process.
How Are Co-Trustees Determined?
Establishing an estate plan is vital for expressing your wishes for your loved ones and assets after your passing. It provides peace of mind for you, your family, and your friends. An estate plan can consist of a will and other documents like medical powers of attorney and financial powers of attorney. Additionally, you may choose to create a trust document, which offers various benefits, such as avoiding probate, maintaining privacy, and streamlining the administration of your estate.
When setting up your trust, it’s crucial to designate at least one successor trustee to handle your assets in the event of your demise. This is where the option of appointing co-trustees arises. You can choose either individuals or financial institutions to serve as trustees. However, it’s best to avoid naming your attorney as a successor trustee, as it can raise ethical concerns.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Co-Trustees
In California, having co-trustees to administer a trust has both pros and cons. To make an informed decision, consult with an estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process. By appointing more than one trustee, you can ensure that someone is available to handle your affairs in case one trustee is unavailable or incapacitated. However, similar coverage can be achieved by naming successor trustees.
One of the disadvantages of co-trustees is the potential for disagreements on crucial matters, leading to litigation and delays in asset distribution. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s important to understand that you can seek court intervention to remove one or both of the trustees. This complex process requires the expertise of a skilled probate litigation attorney. Prompt action is essential when co-trustees fail to cooperate, as it can prevent harm to the trust and its beneficiaries, including mismanagement or neglect of assets, delays in inheritance, inaccurate trust accounting, lack of communication, and wastage of trust assets.
Do Co-Trustees Have to Act Jointly?
While California trust law dictates that co-trustees must act unanimously, the trust document itself can override this requirement and allow co-trustees to act independently. Granting trustees the ability to act independently can expedite the administration process.
Seeking to Remove a Co-Trustee?
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from a qualified attorney. If you suspect that one or more co-trustees have breached their fiduciary duties, it’s crucial to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney. At Garrity Traina, we have assisted numerous clients in similar situations and are committed to ensuring your peace of mind. Contact us at (714) 963-7543 to schedule your consultation.