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Are two trustees too many?

Are two trustees (co-trustees) too many?

While you are alive, you remain the trustee of your trust. Another person will act for you when you can’t. That person is called the successor trustee, and you will choose the person when you make the trust.

The successor trustee is the bedrock of a well-run trust administration. Whom you select will determine how smoothly the trust is administered. In the law, a trustee is given a special name, that of “fiduciary.” That position is held in high regard by the courts.

A fiduciary relationship occurs when one person justifiably selects and puts confidence, good faith, reliance, and trust in another whose aid, advice, or protection is sought in some matter. In a living trust, the certainty of death, and the possibility of incapacity while the person is alive, are the reasons why the relationship is created. The fiduciary must be all for the person who makes the trust. The fiduciary must not be nonchalant about duties, or put aside matters of the trust when there is a need for action. The fiduciary must handle the assets with the utmost care. For instance, when investing, a reasonable rate of return on investments is the goal. Speculating is not. The fiduciary must not be in a conflicting position, profit behind the back of the person, or have a divided loyalty.

You might ask: “If the job is so important, why not have two successor trustees?” The answer is the same as to why we don’t have two Presidents of the United States at the same time. Or two quarterbacks on the field running the team at the same time.

A trusteeship is best handled by one person being in charge. A co-trustee would be a drag on the first. Instead of a smooth operation in the hands of one person, a second decision maker (a person probably not as competent as the first person) would always have a say, and could block or delay good decisions.

Also, the beneficiaries would have only one trustee to blame if there is a problem in the administration.
We recommend that you name two successor trustees, but not co-trustees. One to be in charge and the other as a backup. But they would not act together.