Becoming someone’s trustee involves significant responsibility on your part. If a friend or family member asks you if you would be willing to let him or her designate you, it may feel flattering to be the one chosen.
However, before you agree to fulfill these duties, consider these aspects of the role.
Know your responsibilities
The documentation the individual leaves behind generally includes detailed information regarding your role and how to distribute or manage the assets for the benefit of the named beneficiaries, which could include you as well. You should go over these guidelines with the trustor when he or she is creating the trust so you are clear on your role.
However, once it comes down to completing the tasks 20 years later, things may not be as clear as expected. As well, Georgia state laws regarding trusts change over time, so if you agree to become trustee, you should stay updated on these law changes. Georgia State University provides a law review regarding trusts.
You can also consult a lawyer to be sure you are administering the trust within the law. If you must deal with difficult family members, especially in the case you are also a beneficiary and they think you are being unfair, having an attorney to back up your work can save a lot of time and stress.
It is highly important that you can act in an ethical manner when administering a trust. The person putting you in charge expects you to:
- Be impartial between beneficiaries
- Be loyal to the trust without letting your own interests interfere
- Administer the trust with good judgment and prudence, being mindful of every detail
The trust may require you to keep financial records and report to beneficiaries regarding assets, debts and disbursements. Some trusts may ask you to manage investments or keep track of financial institutions which are doing so, and ensure they continue to perform as expected.
Be aware, you may be personally liable for losses or gains to the trust if you fail to complete your duties, especially if this involves your negligence or intentional wrongdoings.
While becoming your family’s trustee may be the best option for the estate, this position carries a high level of responsibility and stress, especially if you must deal with difficult family members in the process. Being both a trustee and a beneficiary can create some complications as well. Review Georgia’s trust code in depth to better understand your specific duties as a trustee in this state, and be sure you are prepared to do your job well.