Because a comprehensive estate plan should accomplish a wide range of estate planning goals and objectives, the average estate plan will include a variety of estate planning tools and strategies aimed at achieving those goals and objectives. One of the most common estate planning tools is a trust. Though once used almost exclusively by wealthy families to keep the family wealth in the family, trusts are now commonly found in the estate plan of the average person. Given how common it is to find a trust in an estate plan, it should come as no surprise that it is also fairly common to be named the Trustee of a trust. If someone did recently name you as the Trustee of a trust, and you have never before served as a Trustee, you likely have a number of questions about your duties and responsibilities as a Trustee. Toward that end, the Waukegan trust administration attorneys at Hedeker Law Ltd. have answered the top five most frequently asked questions regarding the administration of a trust.
- Do I need an attorney to help me administer a trust? The duties and responsibilities of a Trustee during the administration of a trust typically require at least a rudimentary knowledge of both legal and financial concepts. Unless you happen to be an estate planning attorney or financial advisor yourself, do not try to administer the trust without seeking professional guidance. No matter how good your intentions may be, without the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney mistakes are likely.
- Are there guidelines for investing trust assets? As a Trustee, you are required to use the “prudent investor standard” anytime you invest trust assets. This requires you to invest with caution, avoiding risk at all times and always focusing on protecting the principal first and growth second. Be more careful with trust assets than you would be with your own assets. Beyond the legal requirement that you use the prudent investor standard, the terms of the trust may also provide you with guidance. The terms should make clear what the trust purpose is and may also give you additional insight into how the trust assets should be invested.
- Do I have to abide by every trust term, even if I don’t agree with it? With few exceptions, yes. As the Trustee, you must abide by the terms of the trust agreement unless a term is illegal, unconscionable, or impractical. Even then, you will need to seek the guidance of a court, in most cases, to be justified in ignoring that term.
- When does my job as Trustee end? There are several ways in which your job as Trustee may come to an end. You always have the right to resign (or refuse to accept to begin with) your position as Trustee of the trust. In that case, the designated successor Trustee will take over as Trustee. Your job will also come to an end when the trust terminates. The trust itself may indicate when it is to terminate or a court may end up deciding when it terminates. It is also possible for the beneficiaries of the trust to seek the removal of a Trustee if they believe they have good cause.
- Can I be held personally liable for a mistake? Under the right set of circumstances, a Trustee can be held personally liable for mistakes made, or for losses suffered by the trust, while acting as the Trustee. This is one of the many reasons why you should retain the services of an experienced trust administration attorney to assist you while you are acting as Trustee.
Contact Trust Administration Attorneys
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns regarding trust administration in Illinois, or you wish to retain the services of an attorney to help you administer a trust, contact the experienced trust administration attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.