Living Trusts – What is a Trustee Supposed to Do?

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The trustee of a California revocable living trust does not have to be an attorney or hold any certificate of special learning. Most family trusts name a family member to be the trustee.

A quick review: The person who creates the trust is called the "trustor" (or "settlor"). The person who manages the trust is called the "trustee". Every trust must identify these two titles (as well as the beneficiaries). You can browse to get more info on family trust.

A trustee manages the assets owned by the trust and, technically, holds title to all of the assets of the trust. For example, if mom and dad create a trust and name themselves as co-trustees, then a new deed to their house should be prepared and recorded which puts both of them on title as the trustees of their new trust.

In this example, mom and dad's trust will also name a "successor trustee" who will assume that responsibility when both mom and dad become incapacitated or pass away. Here are some of the duties that would be imposed on that new (successor) trustee:

Duty to administer trust. This means complying with the Probate Code Sections that require giving all beneficiaries proper notice that the trust will be administered, providing an accounting of trust assets, reporting information to the beneficiaries, and ultimately distributing the assets to the named beneficiaries.

Duty of loyalty. Very simple: The trustee must administer the trust solely in the interests of the beneficiaries.

Duty to deal impartially with beneficiaries. The trustee must take into account any differing interests that one beneficiary may have to another. The trustee must act impartially and not favor one beneficiary over the other.

Duty to avoid conflict of interest. The trustee cannot use trust property for his/her own interest, and must not take part in any transaction in which the trustee has an interest adverse to a beneficiary.

Duty to not require a beneficiary to relieve trustee of liability. A trustee cannot withhold a distribution to a beneficiary by demanding that the beneficiary first agree to hold the trustee harmless for any wrongdoing.

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