Choosing A Trustee – Domestic Asset Protection Trusts

An You and your family must choose a trustee congruent with not only your financial objectives, but your broader aspirations. The trustee is bound by the rules of the trust, but is afforded discretion when making decisions. The trustee may either be a Private Trust Company or a Public Trust Company.

Briefly, a private trust company is controlled by you and serves only your family. A public trust company provides trust services to multiple families and the general public.

The Trustee’s Role

The trustee’s role is to administer and distribute trust assets as dictated by the trust document. The trustee’s roles generall concer the administration and management of the trust. Acting as a financial advisor may or may not be one of the duties. The trustee is the guardian of the trust’s assets. They handle filings, distributions and day to day activities. They must keep accurate records, keep in contact with the beneficiaries, and execute all the transactions.

Private Trust Company (PTC)

Private trust companies (PTCs) provide many benefits and are often preferable for self-settled trusts. A PTC serves only one family while providing increased control, lower costs and more privacy. There is no third party to sign off on decisions or pay. Further, they don’t require sharing information with a anyone else. This is especially appealing given recent large data breaches such as the Panama Papers.

The only downside is having family involved in intimate family matters. Sometimes tough decisions are better handled by an independent party who can claim their hands are tied. This applies less to self-settled trusts than trusts which are established for children and other family.

Public Trust Company

The benefits of a public trust company are a reduced workload on your family and independence from the beneficiaries. They offer better continuity over time and assistance with trustee duties. These factors matter when a trust is established for perpetuity, or there is not a lot of family willing or able to take on the duties of being a trustee.

Independence: You may not always want the beneficiary to retain influence over the trustee. For example, if you have several children but one suffers lifestyle problems. You do not want your spendthrift child harassing the trustee (their sibling) everytime they want money. Nor does the sibling want to be in the position of controlling their sibling’s money. This can easy spoil the relationship. In this case an independent trustee is clearly preferable.

For example, imagine Erika is the eldest of three children, and her parents named her executor of the estate. Her brother Brian has drinking problems and has become the black sheep of the family. Even her parents know the problems Brian has, but they still decided to divide everything equally. Now, Erika knows that every time her brother needs money he will take it and it will not be according to the wishes of his parents and it could even affect their relationship if she tells him that his lifestyle is not correct.