What is a Successor Trustee?

December 7, 2017
Successor Trustee Picture

A successor trustee serves as a backup trustee and immediately steps in to fulfill the role of trustee should something happen to prevent the trustee from carrying out the required duties.  

Duties and Responsibilities of  a Successor Trustee:

Your trust agreement sets out the terms of the trust that the trustee must follow.  At such time that a successor must step in to fulfill those duties, he or she must adhere to the same terms. 

For example, if your trust agreement states that all assets and property held in the trust should be transferred to beneficiaries upon your death and that the trust should then be closed, your successor trustee is obligated to follow this directive.

Or if your trust agreement directs the trustee to maintain property for the benefit of any minor heirs,  your successor trustee would make distributions to their guardian(s) for their care as your instructions require.

Some other duties of a successor trustee include:

  • Locating, protecting, investing and managing your assets until proper distribution is made
  • Following the probate process to determine if there is an overlap of assets
  • Paying debts
  • Preparing and filing all required income tax and estate tax returns
  • Getting appraisals and date-of-death valuations for trust assets


Serving as a trustee is an important and time-consuming role. Choose your trustee and successor trustee with care. Be sure to speak to the individuals or entity that you wish to designate to make sure everyone involved is willing to take on the responsibility.  For assistance with your estate planning needs, please contact Stouffer Legal. 

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