Being named as a trustee is a great honor. However, the title also brings along some very important responsibilities. At the Houston law firm of McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, our trust administration attorneys are here to help trustees through what is often an unfamiliar time. For over 30 years, McCulloch & Miller, PLLC has provided much-needed peace of mind to trustees overseeing all types of trusts.What Is a Trustee?
A trustee is a person designated to administer a trust. This includes, among other things, overseeing the assets in the trust and safeguarding them for the beneficiary. When a grantor creates a trust, they will typically name at least one trustee as well as a successor trustee. Often, a grantor manages a trust themselves until they can no longer do so, at which point the trustee takes over. If the person named as a trustee is unable or unwilling to serve in the role, the successor trustee will be appointed as the trustee.What Are the Duties of a Trustee?
Trustees have a tremendous responsibility in that they are charged with managing trust assets on behalf of the trust beneficiaries. Throughout the trust administration process, trustees take on a variety of obligations to the beneficiary. For example, the trustee must always act in the best interest of the beneficiaries which includes placing the interests of all beneficiaries ahead of their own.
Trustees must also follow the terms laid out in the trust document. This includes making distributions from the trust when appropriate.
Other duties and requirements of a trustee include:
- Trustees cannot mix their personal assets with trust assets;
- Trustees cannot use trust assets for their personal benefit;
- Trustees cannot favor one beneficiary over another;
- Trustees must responsibly invest trust assets;
- Trustees must keep accurate records of all disbursements and transactions;
- Trustees must file a tax return when required; and
- Trustees must keep the court apprised of the trust’s status.
Once a trustee is appointed by the court, they will need to immediately begin the trust administration process. A trustee’s failure to fulfill their duties can result in their removal and, in more serious cases, in civil or even criminal actions.
At the Houston estate planning law firm of McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, we work closely with trustees to ensure they effectively carry out their duties. We recognize that the role of trustee is often thrust upon you without notice, and you may have questions about the trust administration process. We’re here to help in any way we can.Is Serving as a Trustee a Major Time Commitment?
It depends. Some trusts are much more complicated than others. Typically, the more beneficiaries, the complexity of the trust and trust property, and greater the value of the trust, the longer it will take to administer. Trustees also vary in terms of their investment experience and knowledge of the applicable estate planning laws. However, trustees do not need to embark on this journey alone. The estate planning lawyers at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, can help trustees understand their responsibilities, making the process much easier.Were You Appointed as a Trustee or Successor Trustee?
If you recently learned that you were appointed to serve as a trustee over a Houston trust, it’s common to have questions about the process. At the estate planning law firm of McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, we recognize that this is a stressful time and understand your desire for clarity and compassion. Our Houston trust and estate lawyers have more than three decades of experience helping trustees navigate their complex and time-consuming obligations, so they can continue living their lives.
We also offer all trustees a free consultation, during which we will answer your questions in clear, understandable terms. To learn more, and to schedule your free consultation with one of our Houston trust planning attorneys, give McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, a call today at 713-333-8900. You can also reach us through our online contact form.