Christopher S. Nudo
How to Effectively Be a Trustee
1. Full Transparency
Most successor trustee's of living trusts are acting on the behalf of the remaining beneficiaries. The trustee is the person appointed by the decent to make all the decisions required to manage the assets of a trust. The beneficiaries are the people who are entitled to the assets in the trust. Often times, a son or daughter becomes the successor trustee of their deceased parents' trust. As successor trustee you will be responsible for proper management of the trust assets for all of the beneficiaries. To be a good successor trustee, I recommend being fully transparent with regard to all of the trust assets with all of the beneficiaries to the trust. Otherwise, you could be accused of misappropriating trust assets or misconduct.
2. Keep good records
Organization is extremely important when assuming the role as successor trustee. Keeping the following records will avoid accusations of misconduct: 1) Bank receipts 2) Reimbursed costs 3) Note from important telephone conversations. 4) Complete inventory of non-titleable assets. and 5) Print out all email conversations. It is important to constantly update all of the beneficiaries with new developments or if something is going to take longer than expected.
3. Keep your fiduciary duty clean
As a successor trustee you have a fiduciary duty to all of the beneficiaries. This means that you, as sucessor trustee, must put the interest of all of the beneficiaries first. The fiduciary duty surpasses any interest you may have in the trust as beneficiary.
4. Be compensated if it's available
Many living trusts today provide a way for the successor trustee to be compensated for the time they will invest. Being a successor trustee requires a lot of time and effort. Before beginning work as successor trustee, discuss with the beneficiaries what a fair hourly rate would be so that, you may be compensated for all the hours you invest as successor trustee. In the Chicago suburbs, a typical rate for a successor trustee is $50.00 per hour. Keep good time records. It is very common for beneficiaries to review these records to help hold you accountable.