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What is the difference between a 'successor trustee' (ST) and a 'Trustee' (T) through the eyes of the law?

Los Angeles, CA |

I was told that the difference is that the ST is not elected by the other Trustees, rather by a law firm or any person/company specified by the Trust Deed, ensuring that it was always an independent person. Where as the other Trustees were selected by the remaining Trustees, but as specified by the Trust, limited only to family members whom were listed as beneficiaries.

I want to know if there are any differences through the perspective of the law, as to the role and powers of those named 'successor trustees' and just 'Trustees'?

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Attorney answers 3


There is no difference. The settlor of the trust is the one that names the trustee and the successor trustees. The trust can give the right to appoint successors to someone else including the trustee, beneficiaries or anyone else.

If no successor is named or willing to serve, the court will appoint someone based on petition by a resigning trustee or the beneficiaries or other interested party.

The trust instrument could draw a distinction such as different compensation different aCcounting requirements different rules on liability etc. Absent something in the document, the original trustee and successor trustees are viewed the same in the eyes of the law when it is there turn to serve.

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You are a bit confused. The Successor Trustee simply is the Trustee that succeeds the prior Trustee. Trustees typically do not select other trustees, although they can be given the right to do this to replace themselves. Also, a Trust Deed refers to real estate, so I wonder if your questions relates the the trustee of the trust deed?


Attorney Shultz is correct. The only possible difference lies in the necessity of a bond for a trustee. That is, most trust agreements allow for named trustees not to have to post a probate bond. However, when the trustees named in the document are not available to serve, a probate court will have to appoints a successor trustee of the court's choosing. In that case, the successor trustee will likely have to post a bond. If you have further questions, I'd strongly urge to retain an estate planning attorney to review the trust document. Good luck to you.

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