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Estate and Elder Law

Naming a Trustee Is a Key Florida Estate Planning Decision


Every Sarasota and Manatee County Florida resident leaving property and assets to their heirs at death, via a trust, must consider who will run the trust after they have passed away. The chosen fiduciary will be responsible for managing the assets the trust owns and making distributions to your loved ones in accordance with your final wishes.

Being a trustee requires a substantial time investment and the ability to put aside his or her personal feelings to do what they have been instructed or what the decedent would have wanted. It is not uncommon to designate a family member, close friend or business associate to be the trustee. Alternatively, a Florida bank or trust company can be selected. To simplify the decision making process, consider these key factors:

1. How much will the Florida Trustee charge?

The fees paid to a Sarasota or Manatee County Florida corporate trustee will typically exceed those paid to an individual trustee, who can and sometimes do waive the fees to which they are entitled. A corporate trustee will be paid based on the percentage of assets under management and charge a minimum annual fee, which can make their services costly for more modest estates.

Any trust involving less than $1,000,000 should be handled by an individual trustee (local Sarasota family member or friend) since the high fees charged by a corporation wouldn't justify its involvement. But even a trust that surpasses the $1,000,000 value threshold doesn't necessarily require professional management.

2. Can anyone in your family do the job?

If the Florida trust or estate is fairly straightforward, there are benefits to having a local Sarasota or Manatee County Florida family member or close friend administer it following your death. It can be a difficult job, including routine administrative duties, investment-diversification decisions, tax filings and the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. A trustee can hire local Sarasota or Manatee professionals to assist with certain facets of this workload (property management or investment strategy).

3. How are the relationships between your beneficiaries?

The Florida trustee's workload can be greatly increased if there is dissonance within a family, which is why Florida corporate trustees or independent Personal Representatives are more common when family dynamics are strained or complicated.Sarasota and Manatee county Florida residents who have been through several marriages may want to employ an impartial Sarasota or Manatee County Florida third party to reduce potential litigation among heirs.

It is also recommended to use a Florida corporate trustee if there is a concern that a family member will usurp their final wishes. For example, it may be a bad idea to put a spouse who has a difficult time saying no to a child in charge of a trust the decedent arranged to have paid out over a long time period.

The selection can be even more important when it involves a Sarasota or Manatee County Florida same-sex couple.

View more information from Marc J. Soss at and

Marc Soss' practice focuses on estate and tax planning; probate and trust administration and litigation; guardianship law; and corporate law in Southwest Florida.  Marc is a frequent contributor to LISI and has published articles and been quoted in the Florida Bar, Rhode Island Bar, North Carolina Bar, Association of the United States Navy, Lawyers USA, Military.Com, Forbes.Com, and CNN Business. Marc also serves as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve.


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