If you’re thinking about setting up a trust, either to take effect in your lifetime or after your death, you need to take care when choosing a trustee.
In setting up a trust, you are giving up ownership of the assets, and signing them over to the trustee. The trustee will then take responsibility for managing the money or assets that you have set aside in the trust for the benefit of someone else (the beneficiaries). The trustee must use the money or assets in the trust only for the beneficiary’s benefit and everything the trustee does must be done in the beneficiary’s best interests.
Clearly, with such an important responsibility, it is essential to choose the right person to act as trustee.
Who can be a trustee?
As a general rule, anyone over the age of 18 can be a trustee. But you will want to be very careful about who you give the power and responsibility of trusteeship to.
Many people appoint a trusted family member or friend for trusts that take effect after their death. For trusts that take effect in your lifetime, you can appoint yourself and your spouse/civil partner/partner as trustee(s) if you wish, so that you retain some control over the assets and the decision-making power, though you must exercise this for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
How many trustees should there be?
Two or three are preferred. Four is the maximum (unless it is a charity), and only one trust corporation is needed.
Must I appoint a professional trustee?
You do not need to appoint a professional trustee, but this can be helpful if the others are unfamiliar with the obligations of the role. Alternatively, you can appoint family or friends and they can take advice from a professional trustee as and when necessary.
What do I need to think about when choosing a professional trustee?
If you decide to use a professional trustee, make sure you do some research before you sign up with them.
- How long has the company been trading?
- Are they regulated by any body/bodies?
- Have they signed up to any professional codes?
- Do they have a good reputation?
- Are their charges reasonable?
- Do they have professional indemnity cover, or other protection in place?
- Who are the directors? Check their credentials and background
You should take your time and shop around to ensure you are completely comfortable with the company before you make a decision.
Ultimately the clue is in the name: ‘trust’. You must make sure you trust the person or people you appoint as trustee(s). This is an important decision and must not be taken lightly.