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As a trustee, you have fiduciary responsibilities

If someone names you as a trustee in one's estate planning, then you could later be called on to take on a large responsibility. Before you agree to such an assignment, make sure you understand what burdens you might carry and ensure that you are able to do so correctly. While you might feel obligated to say yes to a loved one, especially because you're flattered they would ask, saying yes to a trustee title and being unable to handle it can be bad for the beneficiaries.

All trustees, regardless of the type of trust they administer, have what is known as a fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries of the trust. The beneficiaries are the people, businesses or foundations that will benefit from the assets within the trust. The trustee does not usually benefit from those assets, though he or she might be paid to manage the trust.

As the trustee, you have to manage the assets of the trust in a way that upholds the interests of the beneficiaries. In many cases, that means employing strong money management skills to grow or protect wealth housed in the trust. In some cases, you might be charged with reviewing receipts or other documents to ensure assets in the trust are being spent in line with trust requirements.

As a trustee, you might be put in uncomfortable or tense situations as you try to ensure the deceased wishes are complied with. You might also have to make regular reports to courts or business entities, which are in place to ensure you are doing a good job as a trustee. If you are facing trust administration tasks and feel worried or confused, consider consulting an estate planning lawyer for more information about your responsibilities and how you can perform them.

Source: Investopedia, "Can You Trust Your Trustee?," accessed Jan. 20, 2017

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