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By: Scott Grossman on August 5th, 2016

What Are The Duties of a California Trustee?

Even though the powers of a trustee and instructions for the administration of the trust are mostly determined by the trust itself, the California Probate Code (sections 16060 to 16064) gives a detailed outline of the trustee’s duties. These include the duty to:

  • Always act in the interest of the beneficiaries when administering the trust, dealing and acting impartially while understanding that beneficiaries may have divergent interests;
  • Administering the trust firstly under the trust instrument and, in the absence of instructions, according to the California Probate Code;
  • Refrain from using trust property for the trustee’s benefit or any reason bearing no relation with the trust. The trustee should never take any action that is not in the interest of the beneficiaries;
  • Stay in control of the property of the trust and preserve its integrity;
  • Keep the property productive following the objectives of the trust;
  • Maintain a clear distinction and separation between property in and out of the trust;
  • Act efficiently to enforce claims that benefit the trust;
  • Defend the trust against actions that may result in losses to the trust;
  • Keep the administration of the trust under personal control, avoiding the delegation of tasks and responsibilities to others;
  • When more than one trustee administers the trust, make sure each one will participate in the administration of the trust;
  • Take steps to prevent a co-trustee from breach of trust or compel a co-trustee to redress a breach of trust;
  • Live up to the standards set by the settlor in selecting the trustee, and use all of the trustee’s skills in administering the trust;
  • If the trustee is also a beneficiary, avoid making any decision that would be in the interest of the trustee as a beneficiary and would not be beneficial to the other beneficiaries in the same way.

Administering a trust is a serious business. The trustee, as the above rules imply, must be efficient, impartial, and perfectly honest. To be efficient, it may be very useful to select a reputed and skillful California probate and trust administration lawyer – a step that becomes indispensable if you feel that some people may contest and litigate the trustee’s decisions.

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