I recently had a client meeting where the client asked about naming all three sons as co-trustees on her trust. I strongly discouraged this, and since several other clients have asked about naming multiple children as co-trustees, I’ll explain why.

First, no one can fight like siblings. Every family is a little different, but the estate planning world is rife with horror stories about parents naming multiple children as co-trustees, thinking that it will force them to get along. Instead, it throws gasoline onto the fire, and the administration limps along as the siblings spend more time fighting than actually getting anything done. Requiring all to agree on all decisions only makes the problem worse. So, while I don’t tell clients they can’t name siblings as co-trustees (as some of my colleagues do), I do warn them that the siblings have to get along and be able to make decisions together. If they don’t have a good relationship now, acting as co-trustees will only make things worse.

Second, the more trustees you have, the harder it is for anything to get done. If you require all co-trustees to agree, you risk the administration bogging down as every decision gets discussed and debated to death. You can make it majority decision, but if the same person is always the odd man out, that will lead to resentment and drama. And if they all have the power to act independently, then they might all be running around, countermanding each other or doing something another one has already done. When more people are involved in decision-making, making any kind of decision becomes much more challenging, as anyone who has been part of a committee knows all too well.

Third, the more people you have as co-trustees, the more difficult the banks get. Some banks point blank refuse to work with co-trustees; others will do it, but they’ll put significant limitations on what the co-trustees can do to make sure everyone is working together. Giving the co-trustees the power to act independently will help with this, but at a certain point, the bank will see the list of co-trustees and have a mild aneurism.

For these reasons, it’s much better to have one trustee (or maybe two) and no more. The trust administration will be much faster and more efficient this way, cutting down on the infighting. If there are concerns about your choice of trustee, you can pick a professional trustee or appoint a trust protector to oversee the trustee and ensure they’re doing their job right.

If you have questions about how many trustees to appoint or who you should name as trustee, please feel free to contact me at kaway@kawaylaw.com.

Kelly Way Attorney pic and bio Kelley Way was born and raised in Walnut Creek, California. She graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in English, followed by a Juris Doctorate. Kelley is a member of the California Bar and an aspiring writer of young adult fantasy novels.