If you have a revocable living trust, you (and your spouse, if you have one) are most likely trustee of your own trust. There may also be contingent trustees named to serve in your place should you become disabled and upon your death. They are often called “disability trustees” and “death” or “settlement trustees.” They step into your shoes and run your trust when you cannot.
Follow Trust Instructions
The most important duty your trustees have is to follow your trust’s instructions. Your trustees are only authorized to act in a particular matter if they can find authorization in the trust document, or under state law.
Examples of Trustee Duties
Trustee duties are outlined in your trust. Typical duties include protecting and managing assets, paying bills, dealing with financial institutions and creditors, providing for your care if you are incapacitated, paying taxes, and distributing assets to named beneficiaries.
What Does My Trustee Need to Know?
Your trustees must have access to the trust document and will most likely work with a qualified estate planning attorney who will guide them. Your trustees should read the document and get good advice. It’s also important that your trustees always act in your highest and best interests; keep your assets separate from their own; keep good financial records of all investments, expenditures, and income; and never use assets as their own, unless the trust documents authorizes such.
Be sure that your trustees have access to your trust document and know how to contact your estate planning attorney.
Choosing a Trustee
Choose trustees who care about you; are good with money and investments; can work with professionals such as your estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and CPA; can communicate effectively with your beneficiaries; keep detailed records; and stay organized.
When you have a particular trustee in mind, speak with that person to get permission before naming him or her as trustee. Your first choice may have too much on his or her plate and may not want to take on added responsibility. In addition, be sure to name contingent trustees (and get their permission) in case your primary trustee is unable or unwilling to serve.
If you need more information on trustee duties or choosing trustees, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.