Fiduciary as Trustee


Understanding The Duties and Responsibilities of a Trustee

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal entity that can “own” assets. The document looks much like a will. And, like a will, a trust includes instructions for whom you want to handle your final affairs and whom you want to receive your assets after you die. There are different kinds of trusts: testamentary (created in a will after someone dies); irrevocable (usually cannot be changed); and revocable living trusts.

Today, many people use a revocable living trust instead of a will in their estate plan because it avoids court interference at death (probate) and at incapacity. It is also flexible. As long as you are alive and competent, you can change the trust document, add or remove assets, even cancel it.

The trustee manages the assets that are in the trust. Many people choose to be their own trustee and continue to manage their affairs for as long as they are able. Sometimes a corporate trustee (Such as Elder Estate Advocates) is named.

Trustees Duties if Named as Trustee or at Incapacity

  • Oversees care of ill person
  • Understands insurance benefits and limitations
  • Looks after care of any minors and dependents
  • Applies for disability benefits
  • Puts together team of advisors
  • Notifies bank and others
  • Transacts necessary business
  • Keeps accurate records and accounting

At Death

  • Contacts attorney to review trust and process
  • Keeps beneficiaries informed
  • Puts together team of advisors
  • Inventories assets, determines current values
  • Makes partial distributions if needed
  • Collects benefits, keeps records, files tax returns
  • Pays bills, does final accounting
  • Distributes assets to beneficiaries as trust directs

Do I have to do all of this myself?  What if the responsibilities are too much for me?
No, of course not. You can have professionals help you, Elder Estate Advocates can assist with any or all Trustee duties.   If you feel you cannot handle any of the responsibilities due to work, family demands or any other reason, you can resign and let the next successor trustee step in. If no other successor trustee has been named, or none is willing or able to serve, Elder Estate Advocates can be named.