If you have been asked to serve as trustee for someone’s trust, it is your responsibility to successfully carry out that person’s wishes, as well as follow state and federal laws. The role of trustee is an important one, and if you have never served as a trustee before, you may be thinking, “Where do I start?!” As a Houston Will and Trust lawyer, I hope to provide you some guidance in this area.
We get calls from concerned trustees often and understand that the job can be overwhelming. Our first bit of advice to you is: breathe! You will get through this. Next, begin working through the steps below.
- Read the trust- The trust will have all the information you need to carry out the wishes of your loved one. It is important to read it carefully so that you fully understand what is expected of you.
- Create a checking account for the trust- A checking account should be set up with the money from the estate. You will need funds to make distributions and payments, and you will want to keep track of them in a checking account that is solely used for purposes of the estate.
- Think of the beneficiary’s interests- You have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust, so it is important to always think of their interest when it comes to the trust.
- No personal finance dealings with the trust– This one may seem obvious, but it should still be stated that you should not borrow money or lend money to anyone from the trust.
- Provide anyone listed in the trust with a report of annual account activity- You can simply provide a copy of the checking and investment account statements, or, if you wish, you can present a more formal trust report prepared by an accountant or attorney.
- Invest trust funds prudently and productively– For this step we strongly suggest that you consult with an investment professional. It is important to invest the funds wisely and have a diverse portfolio, but steer clear of anything too risky.
- Stay in contact with the beneficiaries– It is important to understand the needs of the beneficiaries since ultimately you are working for them. Keep them informed.
- Be aware of any beneficiaries receiving public funds– If any of the trust’s beneficiaries receive public assistance, you need to make sure any proceeds of the trust do not jeopardize their benefits. This is especially important when it comes to adults and children with disabilities.
- File annual tax returns
Being a trustee is a big responsibility and hard work. But the good news is that you do not have to do it alone. Our Houston Will and Trust Lawyers can help you through the process to make sure that you are taking the right steps. Contact us today at (281) 845-8538 to schedule a free consultation.