Legal Advice for Trustees

The Law Office of Pabst and Staveley often provides legal advice to trustees regarding their duties and responsibilities.

Sometimes trusts are created inside a will or living trust because there is some complication that would make an outright bequest problematic. For example:

  • A person wants to provide for a spouse during the spouse’s lifetime, but ultimately wants children from a previous marriage to receive their estate
  • The heir is a minor therefore any inheritance would otherwise go into a blocked account
  • The heir is mentally ill or incapable of managing assets wisely as a result of addiction

Typically, you should contact a trust administration attorney when:

  • The trust is created and a trustee is named
  • A trustee dies, resigns, or becomes incapacitated and a new trustee must take over
  • Assistance is needed in the administration of the trust due to an unforeseen complication

The Trustee is typically a family member chosen because he or she is honest, has a good relationship with all the beneficiaries, is not under anyone else’s influence, and has the time and resources to administer the trust.

Because this is not the trustee’s primary occupation, he or she will have questions about their duties.

What rights and responsibilities do trustees have?

We make sure trustees understand his or her rights and responsibilities, and what they can and cannot do. For instance:

  • When someone becomes a trustee, they are responsible for sending specific legal notices to the beneficiaries informing them of the terms of the trust, his or her role as trustee, and the beneficiaries’ right to receive regular accounting of trust assets and disbursements.
  • When a trust becomes active, (usually when the person who established it dies), the trustee must identify and locate the beneficiaries, take control of the assets, and follow the instructions in the trust document for the disbursement and management of those assets
  • Address administrative issues such as the investment risk of trust investments, allocation of assets among beneficiaries, distribution parameters as applied to specific assets, and trustee fees

During the administration of an estate and closing out a trust, issues can arise regarding trustee duties that make seeking our advice a good idea. For example:

  • A conflict may arise between the interests of two different beneficiaries
  • The trust document contains language that is ambiguous
  • A beneficiary has passed away or has become disabled
  • Trustee cannot locate all the assets

We ensure that the trustee has done all of this is properly. If you are acting as a Trustee, or would like your successor Trustee to consult with a trust administration attorney, contact us for more information.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Pabst and Staveley at (818) 957-8800.