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By: Scott Grossman on July 13th, 2022

Trustee Duties-Is my Trustee required to use their special skills? 

Let’s talk about the Trustee’s duty to use special skills. Are you unaware of the responsibilities of your Trustee? Do you feel they aren’t doing everything in their power to secure your Trust and Trust assets? Are you concerned that your Trustee is not using the special skills they claimed to have? Do you believe your Trustee was not honest about having those skills? 

Here at The Grossman Law Firm, we have been helping our clients for over twenty years, educating them on their rights as beneficiaries. And the duties of their Trustee and responsibilities to do their job effectively.

In this article and video, you will gain insight into your Trustee’s responsibility to properly use their unique skills to manage Trust and Trust assets. 

  • How are special skills defined? 
  • What happens when your Trustee doesn’t use their skills? 
  • What to do after your Trustee doesn’t use their special skills?

How are a Trustee’s special skills defined? 

California’s Trust law doesn’t define special skills. But when you choose an accountant or investment advisor to be the Trustee, it’s nearly always because they hold unique skills most people do not possess. These are considered special skills. 

A Trustee with special skills is required to apply the full extent of their skills while serving as a Trustee. 

Let’s look at some examples. 

Suppose you choose an accountant to be the Trustee since prudent tax decisions must happen after the settlor’s death. Then the accountant must use their training and experience to make those tax-sensitive decisions. 

Consider an Investment Advisor’s chosen as the Trustee because you will need the Trust assets managed for an extended time. In that instance, the investment advisor must use their investment training and experience to manage those assets appropriately.

What happens when your Trustee doesn’t use their skills? 

Suppose your Trustee, chosen for their unique skills, has misrepresented those skills. In that case, they are responsible for the standard of their claimed skills. If they fail to perform up to the standards of the skills they claimed to possess, they have breached their fiduciary duty. In other words, they don’t get to benefit from a misrepresentation, puffery, or lie.

What happens after your Trustee doesn’t use their special skills?

If your Trustee breaches their fiduciary duty by failing to use their special skills, then your Trust may have taken a loss. That is why it is vital as a beneficiary to familiarize yourself with a Trustee’s Standard of Care and if they are breaching their fiduciary duties. 

A Trustee’s breach of their fiduciary duty usually results in a financial loss to you, the beneficiary. If this is the case, evaluate what that failure has cost you. In that case, it’s time to consider taking action and removing them as a Trustee. You should first consider whether there has been any loss due to your Trustee?

 If there has been any loss, you probably want to consider a petition to: 

  1. Surcharge (i.e., get damages against) the Trustee;
  2. Seek prejudgment interest; and
  3. Seek post-judgment interest.

Know the basics of proper trust administration

Please review our articles on the Beneficiary’s Rights in CaliforniaSuccessor Trustee Tax-Related Duties, and Removing a Trustee in California. If you would still like some more information on Trust Litigation and removing a trustee, check out our complete Overview of California Trust Litigation, available on our website. And if you have more questions about your rights as a beneficiary and what you should know moving forward.

If you are still having some trouble, have any more questions, or want to talk to someone about your case, please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form.

If this aligns with what’s happening to you, it’s best to reach out as soon as possible. The longer you take, the more damage your Trust could take. Please call us at (888) 443-6590, and we would be more than happy to see if we can assist you.