Did someone just designate you as a trustee? If so, you probably have plenty of questions. As a trustee, you are legally responsible for handling any assets that are in the trust.
It is crucial to understand your responsibilities as a trustee so you can act in the best interest of the grantor (the person who set up the trust and named you as trustee). Here is a quick guide to being a trustee.
What you need to do right away
The first thing you should do is have a conversation with the grantor about the trust. You must know the locations of the following papers and documents:
- The trust document itself
- Trust assets
- Insurance policies
You will also need to know if there are any co-trustees or successor trustees. Whether you will be acting on your own or with other trustees will affect your role.
As you assume your role as trustee, you must take on certain responsibilities, including the following:
- Follow the provisions of the trust
- Do not mix your own assets with those in the trust
- Do not use the trust to your own advantage
- Do not play favorites with beneficiaries
- Invest assets conservatively with minimal risk involved
- File tax returns; keep accurate records and inform beneficiaries about updates as necessary
The most important thing to remember is that the assets in the trust are not yours–you are simply managing and distributing them for others.
Get help when you need it
You may have concerns about doing all of this on your own. After all, being a trustee is a monumental responsibility. If you do not feel confident in your ability to handle everything by yourself, do not hesitate to reach out to professionals. In order to understand the legal complexities of administering a trust, you should talk to an attorney. You may also need assistance with investing and accounting.