A Trust is Only as Strong as Its Administrator: A Guide for New Trustees

Embracing the role of a trustee is a significant testament to confidence and responsibility. Before undertaking this invaluable position, remember that you hold the power to uphold the honoring of wishes, securing legacies, and distributing precious assets. For those contemplating trusts in their estate plans, the journey is equally transformative. Understanding the role a trustee has to play within a trust will guide trustees toward effective trust administration and grantors the insight to build comprehensive estate plans.

Navigating Your Role as Trustee

No matter what type of trust you’re appointed to manage, there are several responsibilities that you’re required to uphold. Your role as a trustee comes with the sacred duty of acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries. To accomplish this, you must: 

Act as the fiduciary – A fiduciary is an individual or entity legally bound to prioritize the interests of another party over their own while managing the assets or affairs entrusted to them.

Communicate – Beneficiaries and co-trustees (if applicable) must be notified of any changes in assets, transactions, or distribution. Being transparent about the affairs of the trust will make sure everyone has realistic expectations and prevent potential disputes over the management of the trust.

Be Assertive – Sometimes acting as a trustee means that you have to balance the grantor’s intentions while considering the best interest of the beneficiaries. When trust documents are made, there should be a comprehensive outline dictating how to act for every eventuality, but when in doubt, double-check with an attorney. Circumstances change often, so you may need to accommodate practical realities as closely to the grantor’s wishes as possible.

Stay Organized – Maintain meticulous records of financial transactions, communications, and decisions. A well-organized trustee is a confident one, capable of addressing questions and concerns quickly. Documentation can also protect trustees from liabilities if the beneficiaries believe the trust is not being managed in good faith.

Developing Your Skills as Trustee

If you’re a first-time trustee, you’re likely an excellent candidate in spite of your inexperience. Like every role that requires a lot of consideration and responsibility, trustees should stay informed about regulations and keep up with best fiduciary practices. You may not be an expert in finance or estate law, but knowing when to ask for help is a valuable skill on its own. Never be afraid to ask an attorney or financial advisor for assistance when faced with a difficult decision. If you’re unprepared for the time commitment and duties as acting trustee, it’s also acceptable to turn down the position. It may feel selfish to reject the appointment as trustee, but your personal life and daily responsibilities are important too.

Starting Off with The Right Guidance

No matter your level of experience as a trustee, it’s clear that the grantor has a lot of faith in your abilities. Trusts can be an enduring gift that transcends generations, and grantors cannot take their choice of trustee lightly. Establishing this relationship in unison with grantors, potential trustees, and estate planning professionals is the first step in preserving this legacy. 

For those considering building a trust as part of their estate plan, there are tremendous benefits. The office of Zamora Hillman & Villavicencio Attorneys at Law helps individuals and families develop estate plans that stand the test of time and preserve what matters to them most. To start your estate planning journey or discuss how a trust can give you peace of mind, call (305) 285-0285 for a free initial consultation. 

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Zamora, Hillman & Villavicencio

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