The Responsibilities of a Trustee for an Estate
When estate planning in San Diego, it is important that a testator understands the responsibilities of a trustee; especially if they are nominating someone else as their estate’s administrator. The obligations of a trustee are vast, and depending on how involved the estate is, it could require a significant time investment from the trustee.
Typically, the creator of the trust or the “grantor” is also the trustee. However, if that grantor were to pass away, they may leave provisions for a named trustee to take over.
The Main Responsibility
An administrator typically administers the estate by the terms written in the trust. This specifies the grantor’s requests, including which beneficiaries will receive what assets in the trust. However, this process is not always as easy as it initially sounds. If the trust language is not exact, or open to interpretation, then the trustee may have to use their judgment in what assets go where.
The Standard Duty of Care Applies
While the trustee has some leeway in administering the trust, they are required by law to perform a standard duty of care. The trustee was selected during the grantor’s estate planning in San Diego because they were trustworthy and the grantor felt they could provide the standard duty of care required by law.
Some standards of care required by the trustee include:
- Reasonable Care and Skill: When administering the estate, the trustee is required to use reasonable skill, care, and caution. They must act in a capacity that a prudent person would and aim to accomplish the goals of the grantor’s trust.
- Using Special Skills: If a trustee was selected because of their access to unique skills, they must use those skills (when reasonable) to administer the estate. The trustee can also designate tasks to others with different skills, such as speaking to an estate planning attorney for legal advice or hiring an accountant to evaluate the trust. However, tasks that the trustee can do on their own cannot be delegated; this would be considered an unnecessary waste of trust funds.
Accounting to Trustees
While the trust is being run or administered, the trustee may be required to provide financial disclosures to the beneficiaries of the trust. The trustee must also maintain a level of confidentiality; therefore, they cannot disclose private information to other beneficiaries about one beneficiary, and they must not discuss the matters of the estate with those outside of the trust – unless hiring a professional for a trust-related task. Also, a trustee must never favor one beneficiary over the other; regardless of their personal feelings.
Best Interests of the Trust
When a trustee is managing the trust assets, if they must invest assets or sell assets, they must do so out of the best interest of the trust and nothing else.
Estate planning in San Diego benefits from the use of a trust, but a trust should only be setup by a professional estate planning attorney. This will ensure that the language of the trust is sound, and the grantor’s estate is protected.