What is Role of Successor Trustees?

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Successor trustees carry significant responsibilities.

You have been named a successor trustee.

The problem?

You are not sure what this means.

Relax, many people asked to be trustees do not know the responsibilities involved.

According to a recent nwi.com article titled “Estate Planning: The role of a successor trustee,” you are not alone.

Successor trustees fulfill an important role.
Successor trustees need proof of legal authority.

First, you need to know when your work as the successor trustee begins.

For example, if the trustmaker (also known as settlor, grantor, or trustor) is not deceased but is disabled, you will need to comply with trust requirements to take the position.

The trust should include these details.

An example of this would having a letter from a physician declaring the trustmaker to be incapacitated.

What if the trustmaker is deceased?

It will be easier to establish your authority as the successor trustee.

Typically, a death certificate will suffice.

You may next need to use an Certification of Trust and even an Acceptance and Oath to prove you have this role.

With these, you affirm you are accepting the designation and agree to uphold the terms of the trust and state law.

Some estate planning attorneys utilize a Certificate of Trust and will simply use the trustee agreement.

That is my approach.

These can also be used to demonstrate the authority of the successor trustee.

After your role is established, you can start administering the trust.

If this involves selling the family home, you will need to handle real estate transfers through the local register of deeds office.

You will need to deed the home to transfer it upon sale.

To transfer the real estate, you will need to provide the Certification of Trust to be recorded with the transfer documents as well.


The title examiner will need to proof of your legal authority to make the transaction.

If you plan to transfer other assets, you will need to provide the same proof of your authority as successor trustee.

Should you have questions, it would be wise to discuss your role with an experienced estate planning attorney or seek letters of instruction regarding your role and authority within the trust.

Reference: nwi.com (Jan. 12, 2020) “Estate Planning: The role of a successor trustee”

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