Fiduciary duties require trustees to act on behalf of the trust first and foremost.
Inheritances can bring out the selfish side of individuals.
Every heir has his or her own idea when it comes to what they are “owed” and what they want to do with their new windfall.
After all, they are entitled to it, yes?
This aspect of human nature makes utilizing a trust in your estate plan a tempting idea.
According to a recent yahoo! Finance article titled “Fiduciary Duties in Trusts and Estate Planning,” trustees are legally obligated to fulfill their fiduciary duties.
What are fiduciary duties?
Serving as a fiduciary means the individual or institution is bound by law to prioritize the interests of the trust over personal his, her, or its own interests.
Although there are different types of trusts, all trusts require a trustee to manage the trust on behalf of the beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Depending on the assets held within the trust, the trustee may need to manage money, real estate, and life insurance policies.
This trustee is appointed by the trustmaker (also known as a settlor, trustor, or grantor) when the trust is created.
Some trusts allow the trustmaker of the trust to also serve as the trustee for the trust.
In this case, the fiduciary duty is uncomplicated because the interest of the trust and the trustee are the same.
In some cases, married couples may choose to serve as co-trustees.
This allows the surviving spouse to become the sole trustee after the death of the other spouse.
Even if you have a co-trustee, you should name a successor trustee.
If you and your co-trustee die or become incapacitated, you will need a back-up to manage the trust.
This successor trustee is bound by the same fiduciary duties.
What are these?
The trustees may not mix their personal assets with those of the trust.
Trustees may not use the assets from the trust to benefit themselves.
The trustees must not act on behalf of one beneficiary over another.
In other words, the trustee cannot play favorites.
Trustees must follow the instructions detailed in the trust instrument itself.
The trustees must keep thorough records, file taxes, and report to beneficiaries.
Trustees are bound to full disclosure, care, and loyalty in their fiduciary duties.
Because the terms of every trust vary, trustees must familiarize themselves with the trust document and any instructions.
When creating a trust, work with an experienced estate planning attorney before selecting your trustee.
If you are appointed as a fiduciary, work closely with that attorney to make sure you follow the letter and the spirit of the law.
Reference: yahoo! finance (July 8, 2020) “Fiduciary Duties in Trusts and Estate Planning”