Understanding the Role of the Trustee

Jul 12, 2010

If you have been named as trustee of a trust , you may find that the job isn’t quite as easy as you thought it would be, especially if you have multiple beneficiaries and/or difficult heirs.

In fact, it is a common misconception that the biggest task of a trustee is the financial aspect of their role, but in reality the people that the trustee deals with can be just as much of a challenge.

How to Make Your Role as Trustee Easier

One of the most important things you can do in your role is to communicate with the beneficiaries of the trust. Most people don’t have a clue as to how a trust works, or what a trustee does. Due to the fact that a beneficiary may not understand the mechanics of a trust and your role as trustee, they could be uncooperative. Without the cooperation and support of the beneficiaries of the trust, the trustee’s job can be a lot more difficult than it has to be.

There are some steps you can take to ensure that you and the trust’s beneficiaries are on the same page.

The first thing you will want to do is contact the beneficiaries of a trust as early in the process as possible; at this point do everything you can to educate these people as to what your role of trustee entails. Be upfront with the beneficiaries on subjects such as how long it is likely to take to administer the trust, and always answer questions in a courteous manner. It is also important that you not try and hide the trust document or any of the assets from the beneficiaries, as this will create distrust.

Although the law does require that a trustee keep beneficiaries informed on what is happening with the trust, you will want to do at least this much and a lot more. Look at the beneficiaries more like partners, and they will be a lot happier with how you are handling your role.

Keeping beneficiaries informed is vital; anytime that you take an action that will have an effect on the beneficiaries, you will want to let them know. If you do want to take action and you know that it is not something a beneficiary wants to do, it is a good idea to either get written permission from the person prior to taking action, or to go to court and get approval from a judge.

If you are both a trustee and a beneficiary of the trust, you will have to take extra precautions against potential disputes. It is important that you are fair with all beneficiaries and you will not want to take any action with the trust that you might benefit from at another’s expense.

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