A Successor Trustee is the person who assumes management control of the trust after the initial Trustee dies or becomes unable to continue with his or her responsibilities. Once the Successor Trustee has assumed control, he or she is responsible to ensure that the trust is administered according to its terms. The Trust itself will designate the person or persons who shall serve as Successor Trustee(s).
The trust terms dictate how a Successor takes control. In the event of incapacity, the Successor Trustee will “prove” incapacity of the initial Trustee according to whatever manner incapacity is defined in the trust. For example, if the trust dictates that incapacity is determined by a physician’s statement, the Successor will procure that statement. After the medical statement is procured, creation of an affidavit of appointment of Successor Trustee and/or new Certificate of Trust is helpful for transacting trust matters. In the event of death of the initial Trustee, the Successor Trustee may immediately assume authority to act as Trustee by use of an affidavit of appointment of Successor Trustee and/or new Certificate of Trust.
What if there is a vacancy in Trustee position, meaning there is no designated, able, or willing Successor Trustee to act? The terms of the Trust will control how a vacancy shall be filled. For example, the Trust may grant the beneficiaries authority to appoint a Successor, or the Court may need to appoint a Successor, depending upon circumstances.
The new acting Successor Trustee should provide a Certificate of Trust to all financial institutions, or other third parties, holding trust assets or accounts to be installed as the current acting Trustee of record. The Certificate of Trust provides all dealing with trust assets or accounts with necessary information regarding the trust, including the Successor Trustee’s authority to act on behalf of the trust.
Serving as Trustee carries with it significant fiduciary responsibilities. If you need to assume the role as Successor Trustee or are acting as Successor Trustee, please contact our office to get the assistance and legal advice you need in discharging your duties.
-Andrea L. Claus, Attorney at Law