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Successor Trustee Compensation Guidelines - Do Successor Trustees Get Compensated?

If you are appointed as the Successor Trustee of a Trust, will you get paid for your time? Learn more about successor trustee compensation here.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

When you're appointed as a Successor Trustee, one of the first questions that come to mind might be "Does a Successor Trustee get paid?" This is an important and valid question, as the role of a Successor Trustee involves considerable responsibility and time commitment.

Understanding the framework for Successor Trustee compensation can provide clarity for both the Trustee and the Trust Beneficiaries that they serve.  While each Trust will have its own unique stipulations regarding compensation, we'll explore general guidelines that can serve as a framework. Keep reading to learn about how you may be compensated should you choose to accept this role.

Does a Successor Trustee Get Paid?

Yes, a Successor Trustee can receive payment for their services. The compensation amount is typically outlined in the Trust document itself. Payment structure can vary. A Trust may specify:

  • A flat fee

  • A percentage of the Trust's assets

  • An hourly rate

If the terms of the Trust do not specify compensation, then state laws may provide guidance.

It's important to note that the Successor Trustee's compensation is usually subject to review by the Beneficiaries of the trust and potentially by the court. This is to ensure that the compensation is reasonable and commensurate with the responsibilities and duties performed. Factors such as the complexity of the Trust, the amount of work required, and local professional rates can influence what is considered reasonable.

How Much Does a Successor Trustee Get Paid?

The amount a Successor Trustee gets paid can greatly vary and is dependent on several factors. These include the size and complexity of the trust, the amount of time required to manage the trust, and the specific compensation provisions within the trust. In some cases, the trust document may provide a formula or method for determining the trustee's compensation. Additionally, local market rates for similar professional services may also play a role in determining the trustee's compensation.

It's difficult to provide a specific range due to these variables, but a very rough estimate might be from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars annually. For example, if the trust involves significant assets or requires complex management duties, the trustee's compensation could be on the higher end of this range. Remember, these are very rough estimates and actual compensation can be outside of this range in either direction. Always consult a legal professional or the trust document itself for precise information.

Factors That Influence How Much a Successor Trustee Gets Paid

There are several factors that can influence the amount a Successor Trustee is paid for their work. Let's take a closer look at these determinants:

What Does State Legislation Specify?

State laws can significantly impact the compensation received by a Successor Trustee. In some jurisdictions, the statutes provide a specific fee schedule, dictating a percentage of the Trust assets that should be paid out as compensation. This percentage typically decreases as the value of the Trust assets increases, and is set to provide a fair compensation for the responsibilities undertaken by the Trustee.

In other states, the law may be less specific, only stipulating that the compensation must be "reasonable" under the circumstances. Determining what's "reasonable" may involve consideration of factors like the time and effort expended by the Trustee, the complexity of the Trust assets, and the customary fees charged by professional Trustees in the area. Therefore, understanding the specific state laws governing Trustee compensation is crucial for both the Trustee and the Beneficiaries of the Trust.

Did the Grantor Address Fees in The Trust Agreement?

The contents of the Trust agreement can greatly impact the payment received by a Successor Trustee. If the Grantor of the Trust addressed the issue of Trustee compensation in the Trust agreement, this usually takes precedence over any state law.

The Grantor may specify a particular fee or provide a method for determining the fee. In some cases, the Grantor might state that the Successor Trustee shall serve without compensation.

On the other hand, if the Trust agreement is silent on the issue of payment, the Successor Trustee may be able to charge a fee as determined by state law or what is considered 'reasonable' given the circumstances. However, it's always recommended to consult with a professional to interpret the Trust document and understand the implications fully. This highlights the importance of carefully reviewing the Trust agreement when serving as a Successor Trustee.

Is There More Than One Successor Trustee?

When there are multiple Successor Trustees, payment logistics can become more complex. It's common for the Trust agreement or state law to divide the compensation equally among the Co-Trustees. However, it's also possible that each Trustee might get paid according to their individual responsibilities and the amount of time they invest in Trust administration duties.

For example, if one Trustee handles financial transactions while another manages real estate properties, their compensation could vary based on the complexity and quantity of work each role requires.

Further, conflicts may arise if one Trustee perceives their workload to be more demanding yet receives the equivalent or less compensation relative to another Trustee. Hence, it's helpful to establish a clear compensation plan upfront to prevent disagreements and maintain a harmonious working dynamic amongst multiple Trustees.

When Will the Successor Trustee Receive Payment?

The timing and frequency of a Successor Trustee's payment can vary depending on the specific terms outlined in the Trust agreement (or state law if those are absent).

In general, here are the Successor Trustee payment frequency options:

  • Upon completion of specific sets of duties

  • Periodically (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.)

  • Upon closing of the Trust

Note that there is an element of discretion involved. For example, if the Trust administration process is lengthy and complex, a Trustee might negotiate periodic payments to manage the ongoing responsibilities. Alternatively, if the Trustee's duties are minimal or short-term, it might be more practical to receive a lump sum upon Trust closure. In any case, transparency, communication, and a clear understanding of the payment terms are critical to ensure a smooth Trustee transition and administration process.

Learn More About the Important Role of Successor Trustee

This guide hopefully provided valuable insight into your question, "Does a Successor Trustee get paid?" In summary, yes, a Successor Trustee can receive compensation, although the amount, timing, and frequency of payment can vary greatly.

Factors influencing Successor Trustee compensation include the complexity of the Trust, the specific duties assigned, and any terms outlined in the Trust agreement or state law. It's recommended to establish a clear compensation plan upfront to avoid conflicts. Whether the payment is received upon task completion, periodically, or upon Trust closure depends largely on the nature of the Trust. Understanding these facets of Successor Trustee compensation is crucial for a smooth administration process and successful succession.

To gain a deeper understanding of the Successor Trustee's role and its significance, we encourage you to visit our Successor Trustee guide. Our Learn Center offers a wealth of resources and information that will provide you with valuable insights to help you make informed decisions related to Trust administration. Learning about and understanding these intricacies is vital to ensure an effective and smooth succession. We encourage you to check out all that we have to offer on your estate planning journey.

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