Originally published to the Winter 2020 edition of The Southerner, a newsletter of the Southern Cremation & Funeral Association
BY: DEBBIE HOLMES
VP & Trust Officer-Funeral & Cemetery Trusts, Argent Trust Company | (318) 251-5856
The adage “Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should” is advice given to someone who is not using their resources in a wise way. Here in the South we also hear it used as advice given to someone regarding their wardrobe or questionable activities. It means even though there are things you can do; it does not always mean it is the best choice to do them.
There are some states that currently allow or have previously allowed you to act as your own trustee. Sounds good, right? You are saving money on those trustee fees! But is it a wise decision to not engage a trust professional, especially in an industry as complex as ours?
Trust companies and banks with trust departments are required to become “eligible” to serve as a trustee for Funeral Home and Cemetery trust accounts. A trustee may be eligible to serve in your state for any other type of trust but may be prohibited from serving in our industry due to additional qualifications. A corporate trustee that is eligible to serve in your state already has the stamp of approval from your regulators!
Corporate trustees bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. In the Funeral and Cemetery trust profession, the knowledge is specialized since it is state-specific. It is part of a corporate trustee’s job to monitor any legislative changes that will affect trust administration. Large trust companies will have a dedicated staff, often including an attorney, monitoring the states in which they are qualified. They will also provide career Funeral and Cemetery trust professionals that handle the day to day administration of your account. These individuals are familiar with all areas of trust administration and are also responsible for having the specialized knowledge for the states they serve.
Another reason to use a corporate trustee is to gain connections to other Funeral and Cemetery trust professionals such as tax preparers, investment managers and record keepers. Your trustee should have a preferred tax preparer who is experienced with Funeral and Cemetery trusts tax preparation. This can be a money-saving feature because a trustee is able to negotiate a lower fee due to the volume of business.
A corporate trustee has a fiduciary duty to act solely in the interest of their clients both legally and ethically. When you hire a corporate trustee, you gain an unbiased advisor to add to your team to help your business succeed. A corporate trustee in our industry has the honor of assisting you in serving your communities.
You may be allowed to forgo a corporate trustee, but you could let a corporate trustee serve you as you take care of your business.