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By: Scott Grossman on May 15th, 2023

What is a Trustee?

A Trustee is a person or organization responsible for managing someone else’s property or money through a Trust. Firstly a Trustee must hold, work, invest, and care for the trust’s property for the exclusive benefit of the Trust’s Beneficiaries under the terms of the trust. That means a Trustee must uphold the trust in the best interest of all Beneficiaries.

The estate appoints a trustee to manage and distribute trust assets to the beneficiary. The Trustee must uphold their role by ensuring they do everything in their power to maintain the amount of the trust and estate. 

The Trustee is obliged to the trust and beneficiary to do their job as diligently as possible. 

Suppose you are a Beneficiary of a Trust in California. Under California law, your Trustee must administer the trust with reasonable care, skill, and caution. 

What this means is that the Trustee must adhere to an objective standard. That means they must uphold a specific Standard of Care and deal impartially with all Beneficiaries. 

To learn more about Trustee Duties, check out our article, “20 ways your Trustee can be breaching their fiduciary duties.” Find out more about your rights as a beneficiary and how to secure your rightful inheritance. 

What are my Trustee’s duties?

What are some of the responsibilities of trustees? The following is an overview:

  1. A Trustee must manage trust assets. That includes opening and closing bank accounts, investing trust funds in stocks or other investments, and buying and selling property. The trustees are also responsible for keeping accurate records of the trust assets and providing regular accountings to the trust’s beneficiaries. When multiple trustees serve simultaneously, the trust document may place one specific Trustee in charge of this duty. If the trust does not specify one Trustee to fill this role, both must act together and agree when managing the trust’s assets.
  2. Trustees are responsible for estate and income taxes. That is true on a federal, state, and local level. Trustees are accountable for providing that taxes are settled and filed on time. Unless the trust instrument conditions otherwise, trustees are responsible for carrying out this duty and must act accordingly. However, it is essential to note that trustees may seek assistance from an accountant or tax attorney.
  3. Distributing assets to the beneficiaries. Trustees oversee and distribute these assets as outlined in the trust instrument. This process is more complicated than writing a check, as some beneficiaries may be minors. Or the trust may give specific instructions, such as having distributions made directly to educational institutions for the beneficiary’s benefit. Regardless, the trustees must work together to accomplish this critical task unless the trust document gives this authority only to one Trustee.
  4. Cooperation with co trustees. All trustees must act in the best interest of the trust’s beneficiaries, which requires collaboration among the trustees. That is especially true when the co trustees must work together to accomplish the trust administration tasks.

The Trustee is the legal representative of the trust. This means the trustee is the only person with the authority to act on behalf of the trust. It also means all trust property with a title document (things like real estate, bank accounts, and brokerage accounts) must be titled in the name of the trustee as trustee of the trustee. This means if John Smith is the trustee of the Evelyn Smith Trust, then a property with the title must be held as John Smith, the Trustee of the Evelyn Smith Trust.

The Trustee has duties to the trust beneficiaries and no one else. The trustee has a long list of duties to the trust’s beneficiaries.  What’s important for every beneficiary to understand is the trustee’s duties run solely to the beneficiaries. If your trustee is telling you they are acting because “that’s what mom would have wanted” or “Dad told me to do this before he died,” that’s a sign your trustee is not acting for your benefit.

The Trustee has numerous duties so they can perform their work. This includes the duties to:

  • Collect and hold trust property
  • Add property to the trust
  • Make deposits
  • Manage trust property
  • Make repairs
  • Hold securities
  • Pay trust expenses
  • Hire people

More on your Trustee 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. And if you have more questions about your rights as a Beneficiary and what you should know moving forward.

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.

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 below.