The trustee of a living trust is the person who invests, manages and distributes the trust property, according to the trust agreement or verbal instructions from the trust's creator. A living trust may be large enough to require more than one trustee, or co-trustees. The current trustee can only add another trustee if the trust agreement allows the trustee to do so.
Review the trust agreement to determine whether it provides authority for adding a co-trustee. If the trust creator did not create a written trust agreement, or if the trust agreement does not mention whether a co-trustee is or is not acceptable, then the current trustee generally has discretion to make that decision. But if the irrevocable trust agreement expressly prohibits the current trustee from adding a co-trustee then the trustee and beneficiaries, or a judge, will have to agree to amend the trust before adding a co-trustee.
Amend the trust agreement if it does not currently provide authority to add a co-trustee.
Identify the new co-trustee in the written trust agreement. You can do this by amending and restating the trust agreement in whole, or by simply attaching a rider or exhibit to the trust agreement that identifies the new co-trustee.
Transfer appropriate property held by the trust to the co-trustee. Either or both trustees can own any property held by the trust. Both trustees will own the trust property subject to the terms, conditions and restrictions of the trust agreement.
Notify all interested parties of the appointment of the new co-trustee. Interested parties include the trust's creator, the current trustee and any beneficiaries of the trust. Interested parties also include any financial or insurance companies that name the trustee, or the trust, as a beneficiary on an account or policy.
- Adding a co-trustee can help alleviate the administrative burden on the current trustee, but adding a co-trustee can also cause unanticipated administrative headaches. When two trustees are involved, the trustees may disagree regarding the investment, management or distribution of certain trust property. It is best if the trust agreement anticipates potential problems and provides a solution for situations where the co-trustees disagree with each other. For example, one of the trustees may have a veto power over the other for certain property in the trust, and vice versa. Or, the trustee may consult with the trust creator, or beneficiaries, in order to resolve any disagreements between the co-trustees.The options can range widely from one trust agreement to the next.
- It is always easier to appoint co-trustees at the time of the creation of the living trust, rather than attempting to do so later in the game. But, if you must amend the trust to authorize co-trustees then you will need to follow the instructions in the trust agreement regarding the procedure for amendment. Generally, an amendment requires the consent of the trust creator, and may also require the consent of the beneficiaries or current trustee. However, each trust agreement can contain its own specific set of amendment instructions and procedures.
- "Make Your Own Living Trust"; Denis Clifford; 2011