Many of you who have been asked by a family member of close friend to serve as the trustee of a trust are honored that the trust owner feels confident in relying on their good judgment to undertake this important responsibility. And it’s very likely you have no idea what you have just said yes to take on.
Being a trustee means that you are responsible for all oversight and direction of the assets of the Trust. As a Trustee, you have what is known as a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of that trust. There are laws you must abide by in administering the trust, in addition to the terms of the trust that set out your duties as trustee.
A trustee’s duties include, but are not limited to:
- Administering the trust according to its terms
- Communicating with beneficiaries about the various activities of the trust
- Investing and managing trust assets in a prudent manner
- Accounting for and paying any taxes or fees
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries as outlined in the trust
- Making an accounting of trust assets, liabilities, receipts and disbursements to beneficiaries.
As a Trustee, you may find yourself involved with the probate process at some point and have to go into Court to marshal assets. If some of the assets of the estate were not properly transferred into the trust, this process can be overwhelming, especially if you do not have prior experience in this area.
Thankfully, with a good lawyer on board, you do not have to navigate this process alone. Engaging experienced legal help is always the best option for trustees, with the trust being responsible for any fees incurred for legal services.