In legal terms, a trust protector is an individual chosen to oversee and “protect” a trust in which properties intended for a beneficiary are supervised by another individual, who is called the trustee. The appointment of trust protectors is prevalent in offshore businesses and dealings, because handling properties out of the country can be very difficult, and involving a reliable third party might be more convenient. Having a trust protector has become more customary, especially in situations involving long-term trusts.
There is an utmost need for a trust protector if there is reasonable cause for the beneficiary not to entrust complete authority to the trustee. A protector also serves as an impartial participant who can contribute to the making of decisions, especially when a will or a trust instrument is to be changed. That individual can also act as a mediator between the beneficiary and the trustee if conflict arises from either party.
A trust protector holds as much power as the trustee — sometimes even more. He or she can dismiss and take the position of a trustee if needed, amend the contract if there are legal and circumstantial changes and approve or reject the addition of another beneficiary. He or she can also decide how the properties are to be distributed. A trust protector even has the authority to terminate trusts or to give the approval to do so. A protector’s tasks can range quite widely, according to the specific requests of the creator of the trust.
Taking all of these into account, choosing a suitable trust protector is very important in keeping the trust as stable as possible. Certified public accountants (CPAs), lawyers and other legal advisers are highly qualified for this job, because they know the inner workings of the law and taxation and are experienced enough to undertake a protector’s responsibilities well. They can also make sure that the amendments in the trusts abide by the law. Family members are usually not recommended choices for trust protectors, because they already have a preconceived bias for or against a party.
Having trust protectors is also beneficial in many ways. It can prevent aggravated conflicts from going to court and, in turn, lessen expenses and other non-financial costs. In situations where decisions end in casting votes, a protector can cast the tie-breaking vote. A protector’s responsibilities last only as long as the contract stipulates. After the specified duration, or if the protector has not done his or her job well, another trust protector can be appointed.