Settlors frequently choose successor co-trustees to act after they are no longer able to administer their own trusts. Rather than picking one of their kids to serve as sole successor trustee when they die or become incapacitated, Mom and Dad often appoint two or more of their children to act together as successor co-trustees.
Having more than one child serve as co-trustee can be fine if the co-trustees get along well and are good communicators, but this scenario often turns into a disaster.
In California, unlike most states, co-trustees must make administration decisions by unanimous consent. If there are three co-trustees, all must consent with respect to the various details of trust administration, such as hiring a real estate agent to list/sell trust property or engaging an accountant to produce accountings and tax returns. This is because the default rule in California is that co-trustees must act unanimously. Probate Code § 15620.
Often reasonable people can disagree, and absent any special language in drafted in the trust, the administration of a trust with co-trustees that disagree with one another can bring the administration of the trust to a standstill. Despite this disadvantage, many parents feel like they would display too much favoritism by only nominating a single child to be their successor trustee. As in many areas of law, the selection of one or multiple successor trustees does not yield an unassailable answer. There are pros and cons to each side of the argument and it is my goal to help all of my clients understand the consequences of these important decisions.