If someone close to you passes away and you receive the information that they had named you as trustee, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed if you do not know what is needed to fulfill this role and if you have not served as a trustee before.
Serving as a trustee isn’t an innate skill that everyone has, and there are many responsibilities and duties that someone must take on in this role. Different states may have some specific duties and responsibilities that vary, but here is a general list to help you begin:
- Duty to Administer the Trust: A trustee is to administer the trust in good faith upon acceptance of the trusteeship.
- Duty to Inform and Provide Trust Accountings: A trustee needs to keep qualified beneficiaries reasonably informed of the trust and of the administration of the trust. A trustee also needs to give a copy of the trust document to each qualified beneficiary. Upon reasonable request, the trustee also needs to provide the beneficiary with relevant information regarding the trust’s assets and liabilities. Following the trust becoming irrevocable, the trustee must provide a trust accounting to each qualified beneficiary at least annually as well as on termination of the trust or change of a trustee.
- Duty of Impartiality: In cases where a trust has more than one beneficiary, the trustee must act impartially when it comes to each beneficiaries’ interests. A trustee cannot favor one beneficiary over another beneficiary, and a trustee cannot favor a certain class of beneficiaries over another class.
- Duty of Loyalty: It is the trustee’s duty to administer the trust solely in the interests of the beneficiaries, and self-dealing is prohibited. It is imperative that a trustee place the interests of the beneficiaries above their own. A trustee also must keep all trust property separate from their own property.
- Protection of Trust Property: It is also a trustee’s duty to take reasonable steps that may be necessary to protect the assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries, including using best efforts to make trust property productive of income.
- Duty to Prudently Manage Trust Property: Finally, a trustee has a duty to take all reasonable steps in order to control and protect trust property. It is their duty to invest and manage the investments of trust property as a prudent investor would, and this usually means hiring an investment advisor to assist with making prudent investment decisions in cases of an individual trustee.