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By: Scott Grossman on June 6th, 2023

Trustee Duties: Understanding the Trustee Standard of Care

The trustee wants to ensure that they are carrying out their responsibilities properly. When fulfilling your duties as the trustee of a trust, you are obligated to meet a certain standard of care. Unfortunately, this standard tends to change over time. That can make it very difficult for inexperienced trustees to ensure they meet all of their obligations. In addition, the courts tend to construe the trustee’s standard to be very high. Therefore, trustees must seek guidance from an experienced professional.

Seven Tips for Meeting the Trustee Standard of Care

As you begin the trust administration process, you want to familiarize yourself with a trustee’s required standard of care. Consider the following tips relating to a trustee’s required standard of care:

  1. Carefully review the general standard of trustee care as stated in the California Probate Code.
  2. Utilize reasonable care, skill, and caution as a prudent person would fall under the current circumstances to accomplish the purposes of the Trust. The words contained within the Trust will determine the purpose of the Trust.
  3. You must use any and all skills you possess while administering the Trust. For example, if you have a background in financial investing, you must utilize those skills when handling the assets of the Trust.
  4. If you can reasonably perform specific duties as the trustee, you should generally not delegate those responsibilities.
  5. When you need assistance, however, it is generally permissible to delegate responsibilities and duties. For example, you may utilize an experienced professional to handle some of a trustee’s investment, tax, legal, and accounting-related obligations.
  6. Whenever you opt to delegate responsibilities, however, you must use sound reason and prudence when selecting which individuals to utilize. Also, you must carefully oversee these individuals. As a trustee, you are not simply freed your the responsibility of duty just because you have delegated that duty to someone else.
  7. For certain obligations, such as the duty to provide a trust accounting, you must meet the rules and standards for performing this responsibility as outlined in the California Probate Code.

A Trustee’s Standard of Care

Additionally, if a trustee fails to meet the required standard of care, a beneficiary can demand that the trustee disclose all trust-related information. From there, the beneficiary can assess whether the trustee fails to meet their obligations. If the beneficiary believes impropriety is occurring, they can present this information to the court. The court will then determine whether the claim is valid. The trustee, after that, has the burden of refuting the beneficiary’s allegations by presenting evidence to the court.

Know the basics of proper trust administration

Please review our articles on the Beneficiary’s Rights in California, Successor 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.