Pros and Cons of Individual and Institutional Trustees for Florida Trusts

Wed 12th Jul, 2023 Estate Planning

In the realm of estate planning and trust administration, selecting the right trustee is crucial to ensure the smooth management and distribution of assets. For Florida trusts, individuals and institutions both offer trustee services. This blog post aims to delve into the pros and cons of choosing an individual trustee versus an institutional trustee, shedding light on important factors to consider in this decision-making process.

Individual Trustee

An individual trustee, often a family member or close friend, can bring a unique personal touch to trust administration. Here are some key advantages of appointing an individual trustee for a Florida trust:

1. Familiarity and Trust: An individual trustee is often intimately familiar with the settlor’s intentions, family dynamics, and specific needs of beneficiaries. This personal connection can help foster trust and maintain a more comprehensive understanding of the trust’s purpose.

2. Flexibility and Adaptability: An individual trustee can be more flexible in responding to changing circumstances or unique situations that may arise during trust administration. Their personal involvement can enable quick decision-making and tailored responses to beneficiary needs.

3. Cost Efficiency: Appointing an individual trustee may be more cost-effective than an institutional trustee, especially for smaller trusts. Individual trustees are often more willing to serve without charging substantial fees, as they may be driven by personal motivations rather than solely financial gain.

However, individual trustees also have their limitations:

1. Lack of Expertise: Unless the individual trustee possesses a background in law, finance, or estate planning, they may lack the specialized knowledge required to navigate complex legal and tax implications effectively.

2. Emotional Bias: Close relationships can sometimes cloud judgment, leading to potential conflicts of interest or favoritism. This bias may impact decision-making processes, potentially compromising the trust’s integrity.

Institutional Trustee

In contrast, an institutional trustee refers to a professional entity, such as a bank, trust company, or law firm, appointed to administer the trust. Here are some advantages of choosing an institutional trustee:

1. Professional Expertise: Institutional trustees possess extensive knowledge and experience in trust administration, tax planning, investment management, and legal compliance. They can navigate intricate laws and regulations, minimizing the risk of errors or oversights.

2. Continuity and Stability: An institutional trustee’s longevity and ongoing presence ensure trust administration can seamlessly continue even after the passing of individual trustees or beneficiaries. This can provide peace of mind for the settlor and beneficiaries alike.

3. Objective Decision-Making: Institutional trustees are bound by fiduciary duty and must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Their impartiality and absence of emotional attachment can lead to more objective and fair decision-making.

However, institutional trustees also have some downsides:

1. Higher Costs: Institutional trustees typically charge higher fees than individual trustees due to their professional expertise and infrastructure. This can be a significant consideration for smaller trusts or those with limited assets.

2. Limited Personal Touch: Institutional trustees may lack the personal connection and understanding of family dynamics that individual trustees can offer. This can result in a more impersonal approach to trust administration.


When choosing between an individual trustee and an institutional trustee for a Florida trust, it’s vital to carefully consider the pros and cons outlined above. While individual trustees bring personal familiarity and flexibility, they may lack specialized expertise. Institutional trustees offer professional knowledge and stability but may come with higher costs. Ultimately, the decision hinges on the unique needs, size, and complexity of the trust, as well as the preferences and priorities of the settlor and beneficiaries. Contacting an experienced attorney at Purcell, Flanagan, Hay & Greene, P.A. can help navigate this decision-making process, ensuring the trust is in capable hands.