The Duties and Responsibilities of a Trustee

Perhaps, several years ago, you were asked to serve as a successor trustee for a family member or a friend and you agreed to serve without understanding the many responsibilities and duties of the trustee or the number of hours of work it takes to administer a trust.  This article will broadly explore the duties and responsibilities of a successor trustee.

As a successor trustee, your number one priority must be to ensure that the debts and taxes of the estate are paid and that the assets are distributed exactly as set forth in the living trust document.  Trustees may be tempted to deviate from the terms of the trust; however, the first and most important role of the trustee is to follow the provisions set forth in the trust document.  A trustee cannot be influenced by the special requests of the beneficiaries.  

The next important item to remember is that the trustee must manage the trust assets in a reasonable manner.  A trustee cannot place trust assets in risky investments, but must continue to manage them in a conservative, interest bearing account.

The trustee must always remember the cardinal rule that commingling the trustee’s assets and the trust assets are strictly forbidden.  All trust assets must be kept in a separate trust account.

Finally, it is crucial for the trustee to keep good records.  The trustee must keep an accounting of all of his or her financial transaction.  To that end, many trustee will use either Excel or Quick Books to maintain records these records.  It is also important for the trustee to maintain a good filing system and keep all copies of receipts and supporting documentation.

Serving as a trustee may seem like an overwhelming task, but with proper organization and professional advice, you will ensure that your duties are fulfilled and the wishes of the decedent are followed.

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