When you establish a special needs trust, one of the most important decisions you make is your choice of trustee. Because they will have a great deal of power over the assets you place in trust, you want to select someone that you can rely on. What questions should you ask when selecting a trustee?
1. Is the person willing to serve as trustee?
First and foremost, is the person that you want to act as trustee willing and able to take on the position? Your trustee should be confident in their ability to manage the trust effectively and give your disabled loved one they support they need. They should also have the time to mange your loved one’s bills, benefits and other needs.
2. What are your disabled loved one’s circumstances?
Your loved one’s age, daily needs and long-term health should all be considered when selecting a trustee. For example, if your loved one is in good health and has a long life ahead of them, it may be important to name a younger trustee or co-trustee who can act as trustee for many years.
3. How familiar is your prospective trustee with benefits programs?
As Forbes notes, trustees should have a good grasp of financial strategy in order to manage the funds in trust. However, trustees for special needs trusts must also be familiar with the public support programs that your loved one relies on. Their role may require them to assist with Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications, help your loved one pay for public housing and other specialized tasks.
4. Are they willing to take advice?
Overseeing the funds in trust often requires a trustee to fulfill a variety of tasks, including managing investment of the funds in trust, reviewing the funds in trust, communicating with your loved one and managing the trust’s tax obligations. They may also be called on to pay for caretakers and other expenses. In order to do this job effectively, trustees should be willing to seek out advice from others when they need additional information or more experienced guidance.
5. Could multiple people work together?
While naming a single person to the position of trustee gives them a great amount of power, it is possible to name multiple people to make these important decisions. New Jersey law allows you to name multiple trustees to work together, and the Special Needs Alliance notes that you may name a trust protector, advisor or advisory committee to assist in making decisions.
By choosing the right trustee for a special needs trust, you can ensure that your loved one has the support they need for years to come.