Even if you and your spouse are co-trustees, eventually you will both die, and you may both become incompetent before then. So, whether you are married or single, you need to have a “back-up,” someone who can step in for you as trustee.
Successor trustees have a lot of responsibility and should be chosen carefully. If you (and your co-trustee) become incapacitated, your successor will step in and take full control for you—paying bills, making financial decisions, even selling or refinancing assets to provide for your care. Your successor will be able to do anything you could with your trust assets, as long as it does not conflict with the instructions in your trust document.
When you die, your successor acts just like an executor would for a will—takes an inventory of your assets, pays your final bills, sells assets if necessary, has your final tax returns prepared, and distributes your assets according to the instructions in your trust.
One of the main benefits of a living trust is that your successor trustee will be acting without court supervision, which is why your affairs can be handled more efficiently. But this also means it will be up to your successor to keep things moving. If needed, your attorney, trust officer and/or CPA can help guide your successor, so it isn’t necessary for this person to know exactly what to do and when. You do, however, need to name someone who is responsible and conscientious.