Your estate trustee (aka executor) is the person who handles your estate, distributes your assets, and follows the instructions in your Will. So what happens when there is no one who you want to, or feel you should, appoint as your estate trustee under your Will?

Many people find that they don’t have someone in mind who would be suitable to take on this important role. Or if they do have someone they may want to appoint, there are mitigating factors that make the individual a poor fit. Acting as an estate trustee carries significant responsibility, and the decision of who to appoint should not be taken lightly.

Sometimes even if you don’t have someone in mind at the outset, a conversation about the nature and scope of the role intended can bring to mind someone who may be suitable. Occasionally the opposite happens, and a friend or family member who may have seemed like a great pick is seen to be less well-suited after a discussion of what is involved. Though it can be discouraging, this is a good outcome. No one benefits if someone who will struggle with an important task has it thrust on them. Better to know now, while other arrangements can be made.

It can also be a challenge to select a suitable estate trustee when you expect that there may be a dispute over the estate. Particularly in instances of anticipated family conflict, appointing a family member to administer an estate is an invitation to aggravation, and potentially exacerbated disagreement. Often the outcome is that the appointed estate trustee declines to take on the role, resulting in further debate over who should take it up.

In instances where there is no one who would be a good fit, choosing a professional trustee is usually the best bet. A professional trustee can be a trust company, or an individual such as a lawyer who is experienced in administering estates. The upside of choosing a professional trustee is the peace of mind that an experienced, diligent, and impartial estate trustee can bring. Professional trustees are familiar with the requirements of the role and have the resources to efficiently administer complex or high-conflict estates. Professional trustees also have the advantage of being better prepared for dealing with unanticipated difficulties in a given estate.

If you have estate planning needs that require the appointment of a professional trustee, or if you need assistance in your role as an estate trustee, our estate lawyers can help. To learn more about how we may be able to assist you, please reach out to us online or by telephone at (416) 863-0125.

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