If someone you know and love asks you to be his or her trustee, you may feel flattered and grateful. You may want to assume the role to help this person out, but you may also have several questions about the process.
It is vital to remember that you are under no legal obligation to take on the responsibility of managing a trust. You have every right to decline. If you are having trouble coming to a decision, here are some guiding questions to help you determine whether you should accept the request to serve as a trustee.
Do you know what it entails?
A trustee is responsible for dealing with a deceased person's financial affairs. As a trustee, your obligations may include:
- Collecting trust property
- Understanding the trust document
- Getting familiar with beneficiaries
- Organizing account records
- Investing trust assets
- Preparing tax returns
- Paying creditors
- Appraising assets
- Administering the trust assets
Fulfilling these duties takes a lot of time and effort. You will need to handle paperwork, emails and phone calls.
Is there another trustee?
Sometimes, grantors name multiple trustees. If this is the case, you are a co-trustee. This is often a red flag because it can be difficult to come to an agreement with someone else as you interpret the trust document. Unless the co-trustee is someone reasonable and responsible, you may want to consider turning down the request.
Is there conflict among beneficiaries?
Every family has conflict, but some arguments are nearly impossible to manage. If you notice any anger-or even passive aggressiveness-you may want to consider whether taking the job is worth your while. Plus, consider your own connections to the beneficiaries and the executor named in the will. If you have good relationships with these people, it may not be an issue, but if you have discord with anyone involved with the estate, being a trustee may be challenging.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you. At the end of the day, being a trustee is a mixture of an obligation and honor.