A primer on the duties of the trustee

Laying out an estate plan is no easy feat. The challenges that often arise can come up in a variety of contexts, too. Those with blended families, young children, and a desire for asset distribution that is anything other than evenly divided amongst loved ones need to carefully consider how their estate plan is drafted to obtain desired results. While this may mean the creation of a will and a number of trusts, estate planning is about much more than just determining how one's assets will be distributed upon his or her death.

For example, when a trust is created, an individual can name another person to serve as the trustee. This individual has a fiduciary duty, meaning that he or she has a duty to act in the best interests of another. The trustee also holds title to assets that have been placed in the trust, making him or her responsible for how those assets are utilized. Oftentimes these assets need to be invested to maintain the trust's viability for as long as possible, which is why trustees are oftentimes better off if they consult with a financial expert.

Trustees have other duties, too. Chief amongst them is recordkeeping. Trustees often have to file tax-related documents, provide statements to trust beneficiaries, and submit reports to the court. Sometimes trustees find themselves embroiled in legal disputes, too, especially when beneficiaries claim that the trust's assets are being mismanaged or improperly dispersed.

Many Californians think it's a good idea to name a family member or friend in their estate plan to serve as a trustee. Sometimes these arrangements work out, but before making that decision it is important that all parties involved fully understand what the duty entails. An estate planning attorney can be helpful in advising individuals as to the intricacies involved with trust administration.

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