A Trustee’s Duties
Have you been named trustee of someone’s revocable living trust, or are you a beneficiary of a trust and want to know what the successor trustee’s duties are? Whether you want to know what you are supposed to do, or you want to know the responsibilities that someone else has to perform upon the death of a trustmaker, our estate planning attorneys want to help you understand the duties of a successor trustee.
It is critical that trustees know their duties and responsibilities before acting in this role because they can be held liable under the law if they do something wrong. Because trustees will oversee estates and large assets, they are held accountable for their decisions and actions.
Duties and responsibilities a trustee or co-trustee has to fulfill include:
• Fiduciary responsibility – Trustees receive trust assets upon the death of trustmakers and have the fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust to disburse trust assets. Trustees may not put their own interests above that of the other beneficiaries or profit from the use of trust assets. Trustees have a duty to avoid conflicts of interest, and they cannot combine trust assets with their own assets. If they do, they can be in violation of fiduciary duty.
• Follow trust’s terms – Trustees must follow the trust carefully in regard to distributing income or following directions about certain reports needing to be made to beneficiaries. If the terms are not followed, a trustee can be guilty of a breach of the duty of loyalty.
• Not to delegate – Trustees cannot delegate their responsibility as trustee; however, they can hire attorneys to advise them on how to handle investments and taxes or interpret the trust for them. If a trustee delegates trust administration to someone else, she will still be responsible for any losses.
• Disclose – Trustees have a duty to inform all beneficiaries about the trust and its administration, and they have to fully disclose all property and assets.
If a trustee does not fulfill these obligations or does not act as he should, then it could constitute as breach of trust, and the trustee could be held liable.
If you’d like to learn more about this or any area of estate planning, please contact the Law Offices of Shane Smith at (678) 788-7144 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your “estate planning for life” consultation.