Whether you are selecting a Trustee for a Trust you are establishing or if you are being asked to be a Trustee for someone else’s Trust, you need to have a good idea of what is expected of the Trustee. The first thing to understand is that the state in which the trust is established sets forth the rules for all things pertaining to that trust including the duties and standards of behavior for the Trustee.
There are more responsibilities and details that can vary from state to state and even between types of Trusts, plus any that are included as specific instructions within a Trust. That being said, there are some general expectations that are commonly included:
- The Trustee must be an adult who has the capacity to conduct business transactions and make reasonable decisions as well as follow the instructions contained in the Trust.
- The Trustee must pay outstanding debts and taxes owed by the Trust.
- The Trustee is responsible for managing the Trust funds, including collecting funds owed to the Trust, protecting the assets of the Trust, and distributing funds as stipulated by the Trust.
- The Trustee must always act in the best interest of the beneficiary of the Trust. If there are two or more beneficiaries, the trustee is obliged to treat them impartially unless there are specific instructions to the contrary.
- The Trustee is responsible for keeping records, preparing tax returns, and providing reports as requested by the beneficiaries or by the courts.
The Trustee may hire professionals such as accountants, attorneys, and real estate agents as needed if the funds in the trust are sufficient to cover those costs without unreasonably diminishing the value of the trust.
As you can see, being a Trustee involves some rather demanding responsibilities and time commitments. The Trustee may be paid for their services, but that depends upon the provisions of the Trust. If a bank or other institution were the Trustee, they would charge a fee.
When you are choosing or being chosen, it’s important to arm yourself with the most information so you can choose wisely.