Being asked by a family member or close friend to serve as trustee for their trust upon their death can be an incredible honor. At the same time, however, serving as a trustee can be a massive responsibility—and the role is not for everyone.
In fact, depending on the type of trust, the assets held by the trust, the specific terms of the trust, and the beneficiaries named, the job can require you to fulfill a wide range of complex (and potentially unpleasant) duties over the course of many years. What’s more, trustees are both ethically and legally required to properly execute those duties or face liability.
Given this, agreeing to serve as trustee is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. Indeed, sometimes the best thing you can do for everyone involved is to politely decline the job. Remember, you don’t have to take it. That said, depending on who nominated you, declining to serve may not be an easy or practical option. Some might enjoy the opportunity to be a trustee, so long as you understand what it entails.
Here’s a brief look at what the job will likely entail, along with some situations where you might want to seriously think twice about agreeing.
What trustees do
As mentioned earlier, a trustee’s duties can vary tremendously depending on the size of the estate, the type of trust, and the trust’s specific instructions. Every trust comes with a few core requirements, primarily revolving around accounting for, managing, and distributing the trust’s assets to its named beneficiaries.
Some of a trustee’s key responsibilities include:
• Identifying and protecting the trust assets
• Determining what the trust’s terms actually require you to do
• Managing the trust assets for the term specified and
distributing them properly
•Filing income and estate taxes for the trust
• Communicating regularly with beneficiaries
• Being scrupulously honest, highly organized, and
keeping detailed records
• Closing the trust when the trust terms specify
Ultimately, trustees have a fiduciary duty to properly manage the trust in the best interest of all the trust beneficiaries.
Can I get help?
Fortunately, you’re not expected to go it alone: trustees are encouraged to seek assistance from outside professionals to fulfill their duties. Remember, you do NOT need experience in law, finance, or taxes to serve as trustee. And while you won’t be able to profit from the job, you are able to be paid for your role as trustee.
Soto Law Group can help you decide
Given the serious nature of a trustee’s responsibilities, you can meet with us at the Soto Law Group, APC, for help deciding whether or not to accept the job. We can offer a clear, unbiased assessment of what will be required of you based on the specific trust’s terms, assets, and beneficiaries. If you do decide to accept the trustee role, we can guide you step-by-step through the entire process.
Contact us at 760-610-0519 today to learn more.