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By: Scott Grossman on March 28th, 2024

Duties of a Trustee of an Irrevocable Trust

Trustee duties and powers

In estate planning and asset management, irrevocable trusts are valuable tools for individuals looking to secure their financial legacies. Also, protect their assets for future generations. A trustee is at the heart of every irrevocable trust and is responsible for managing and overseeing the trust’s affairs per the grantor’s wishes. In this article, we’ll go into the duties and powers that a trustee of an irrevocable trust must be able to navigate.

Trustee legal obligations

As a trustee of an irrevocable trust, the individual assumes substantial legal obligations. These obligations are established both by common law and statutory provisions that vary across jurisdictions. Trustees must familiarize themselves with the specific legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which the trust is governed.

Trustee fiduciary duties

A trustee’s fiduciary duties are at the core of their role and form the bedrock of their legal obligations. Fiduciary duty encompasses a range of responsibilities that trustees are bound to fulfill. These duties include loyalty, prudence, impartiality, and a duty to administer the trust following its terms and the best interests of the beneficiaries.

1. Loyalty: The trustee must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and avoid any conflicts of interest that could compromise their duty. That requires the trustee to act with unwavering loyalty, ensuring that personal interests do not interfere with their decision-making process.

2. Prudence: Trustees must employ sound judgment and make informed decisions when managing trust assets. They must exhibit financial expertise and care when dealing with trust assets: A trustee’s role is to treat all beneficiaries fairly and impartially. They must navigate conflicts or competing interests among beneficiaries and act consistently with the trust’s terms.

4. Duty to administer the trust: Trustees must diligently carry out their responsibilities per the trust’s provisions. They must maintain accurate records, keep beneficiaries informed, and ensure the trust’s assets are managed and distributed as outlined in the trust agreement.

Irrevocable trust trustee

Due to the nature of an irrevocable trust, the trustee’s role becomes even more critical. Unlike a revocable trust, which the grantor can modify or revoke, irrevocable trusts are established to be irreversible. That means that once assets are transferred into the trust, they are no longer the grantor’s property and are subject to the terms and conditions outlined in the trust agreement.

The irrevocable trust trustees are entrusted with extensive powers and responsibilities to safeguard and manage the assets held within the trust. These powers may include the ability to invest trust assets, make distributions to beneficiaries, and even terminate the trust under certain circumstances.

Fiduciary duty

One of the most significant obligations a trustee holds is their fiduciary duty. Fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care recognized by law. The law requiring trustees to act with undivided loyalty, utmost good faith, and complete honesty towards the beneficiaries. This duty places the interests of the beneficiaries above the trustee’s interests. It requires trustees to prioritize the well-being of the trust and its beneficiaries.

While a trustee’s duties and powers may vary based on the terms of the trust and applicable laws, the fiduciary duty is at the heart of it all. Trustees must always act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, ensuring their actions align with the trust’s goals and objectives.

Breach of fiduciary duty

When a trustee fails to meet their fiduciary obligations, they may be deemed to have breached their duty. Breach of fiduciary duty can have serious legal consequences and may expose trustees to personal liability. Some common examples of breach of fiduciary duty include:

  • Self-dealing
  • Mismanagement of trust assets
  • Failure to account
  • Failure to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries

If these seem like something your trustee is doing you might want to consider getting a California probate and trust attorney. Or check out our other article “20 ways your Trustee can be breaching their fiduciary duties,” to know your rights.

Beneficiaries can bring legal action against the trustee to seek remedies for any harm suffered. The specific remedies available will vary based on applicable laws and the nature of the breach.

In conclusion, the duties of a trustee of an irrevocable trust are complex and multifaceted. From legal obligations to fiduciary duties, trustees bear the weight of managing and safeguarding the assets to benefit the beneficiaries. Acting with loyalty, prudence, and impartiality is paramount, as is maintaining accurate records and adhering to the terms of the trust. By understanding these duties and powers, trustees can fulfill their role effectively. This ensures the long-term success of the irrevocable trust.

More on your trustee breaching their fiduciary duties

If you would still like more information on trust litigation and removing a trustee, check out our complete overview of California trust litigation, available on our website. If you have more questions about your rights as a beneficiary and what you should know moving forward, 

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