Trust Administration

After a friend or loved one passes away, there are many things to be done. If you were appointed the successor trustee of an estate, then you have a great responsibility of administrating the decedent's trust. If this duty seems overwhelming, then you may ask for the help of a competent estate planning lawyer in your area. A legal representative will be able to help guide you through the complex laws and rules regarding trusts.

Responsibilities of a Successor Trustee

As a successor trustee, you are obligated to make sure that the trust is properly handled. This includes the following:

  • Acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries. As the trustee, you must be faithful to always act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. This includes not showing favoritism to any one of the beneficiaries to the detriment of the others. While you are administering the estate, you should also make sure to keep the beneficiaries informed of all your dealings. By law, beneficiaries should receive an annual statement of all dealings associated with the trust, even if they do not ask.
  • Remember that the decedent trusted you to make good decisions for the beneficiaries, so you have a duty of care to them. The trust is not to be used for your own personal benefit or any non-trust matters. You should avoid buying assets from the trust or selling your own assets to the trust. This may seem underhanded and not always in the best interest of the beneficiaries.
  • Preserve the trust's assets: When you are deciding how to invest or hold the assets, make sure that you make prudent choices. If the assets are unproductive or decrease because of your inactivity or negligence, then you could be liable to repay the beneficiaries. Be especially careful when investing the assets.
  • Separate the trust's assets from your own: Do not put the trust's assets in the same account as your own personal funds. This means having separate bank accounts, deposit boxes, or any other method of storing the funds. Assets that are mixed with your own are easier to misuse, even accidentally. In addition, you could also be taxed on the money.
  • File taxes. You are responsible for filing taxes for the estate. If taxes are not filed on time, then you could be responsible for any penalties or fees that incur. A qualified Certified Public Accountant can assist you in filing the right forms and taxes. Each trust should have its own id number.
  • Keep accurate records. As you make decisions regarding the trust, be sure to write everything down. You must be able to give an account of your actions to any beneficiary or court that asks for it. It is also a good idea to keep good records in case something happens to you. Another person should be able to easily step in and handle the trust because of your diligent record-keeping.

If you are a successor-trustee that is having difficulty fulfilling all these responsibilities, then you can talk to an estate planning lawyer or a bank trust department to help you. This will help ease the burden of your trust administration.

Beneficiary Rights

If you are a beneficiary of trust who believes that the trustee has not handled your trust properly, then you have options. By law, you can pursue a lawsuit so the trustee will return any lost funds. You deserve to receive all that you were promised by the decedent. Be sure to contact an estate planning lawyer to represent your interests in your trust litigation.