For a while, the idea of a “trust” or “estate” was thought of as a tool of the wealthy who had large mansions and companies. However, estates and trusts are for everyone, and trust administration is a top that can (and likely will) come up for every family, regardless of financial status. In this article, we will give you an overview of trust administration. This is not intended to replace the advice of an attorney, as every family is different and has their own specific needs.
What is a Trust?
A trust is a tri-party fiduciary relationship. The first person is called a “trustor.” A trustor transfers the property to the second party, who is called a “trustee.” The trustee holds the property for the benefit of party #3, who is known as the “beneficiary.” The trustee will hand over the property to the beneficiary at a date predetermined by the trustor. Usually, the beneficiary gets the property after the turn a certain age or upon the death of the trustor.
What is Trust Administration?
Trust administration refers to the rights and duties of the second party—the trustee. The trustee must manage the trust according to the terms and conditions of the trust document that the grantor has written. The trustee must manage the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary. A trustee is always encouraged to work alongside an attorney in order to make the management process easier and clearer.
Who Can be the Trustee?
It is possible to name the same individual to the position of trustee and the position of executor of your estate. There are some who recommend that two different people be the trustee and executor, as a way to put checks and balances in place. But, if you name the trustee and executor as the same person, it will minimize legal expenses, as the lawyer only has to communicate with one person.
However, placing the same person in both roles requires a massive amount of trust in the individual. The individual must be responsible, as he or she is personally liable for the trust in certain situations.
Trustees are obliged to strictly abide by the trust’s terms. If the trust prohibits or mandates something, the trustee must do everything in his or her power to stick to the terms of trust.
A big taboo in trust administration is using trust assets for your own benefit. This and other trust-related wrongdoing will lead to a court holding the trustee accountable, whether the court mandates repayment or strips the trustee of their title. A trustee who commits wrongdoing can even be sued in a court of law for restitution and damages.
Can You Decline an Appointment?
Both offices have a lot of responsibility. If you are appointed to either and don’t feel that you can take on that responsibility, you are in luck, as declining is perfectly legal. If you are offered the job of executor and decline, the court will name someone else in your stead. If you decline the job of trustee, the grantor can just replace you with someone else. Trust administration can get complicated, so there is no shame in declining the position if it seems outside your wheelhouse.
Trust administration has the potential to either be very simple or very complex (like everything in law, really). Trusts and trust administration are topics about which you should contact an attorney, as opposed to going on DIY legal sites. It’s important to ensure the trust is done correctly to avoid any unintended results.