Estate Planning Law

What Must a Trustee Representative Do Under Florida Law?

“Trust takes years to build, seconds to break.”

When a loved one creates a trust, he or she names a person to serve as “trustee” (sometimes called a “trust representative,” or “trustee representative”).  That person has the responsibility to administer the trust according to the rules created for the trust, and to protect the beneficiaries of the trust.  In fact, the trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to the trust and its beneficiaries.  That means that the trustee representative must act selflessly in the interest of the trust.  

At our firm, we are often contacted by trust beneficiaries who have no idea what is happening with a loved one’s trust.  They never receive a trust accounting, and they are unaware that the trustee owes a fiduciary duty to them as trust beneficiaries.  

In this article, we will discuss all of the duties that a trustee has when serving the interests of a loved one’s trust.  We broke the duties down into nine separate duties.  If, after reading this article, you have additional questions about trusts and trustee representatives, then we welcome you to contact the Palm Beach County lawyers at Doane & Doane, PA.  Call today at 561-656-0200 or fill out our online contact form.

Nine Major Responsibilities of a Trustee Representative

Under Florida law, a trustee has many duties in properly administering a trust.  And all duties must be performed solely in the interest of the trust and its beneficiaries, not in the trustee’s own interest.  The trustee representative responsibilities are as follows:

1. Good faith.  First and foremost, a trustee is obligated to administer the trust in good faith.  That means that the trustee must display honesty in his conduct regarding the trust, and the terms of the trust.

2. Duty of loyalty.  A trustee, by law, owes a duty of loyalty to the trust beneficiaries.  In other words, the trustee is called on to administer the trust “solely” in the interests of the beneficiaries.

3. Act impartially.  A trustee must give due regard to all of the beneficiaries’ respective interests and must be impartial to all of those interests.  In short, that means that a trustee can never “take sides” when it comes to the various trust beneficiaries.

4. Prudent administration.  The trustee is required under Florida law to administer the trust prudently – by considering the terms of the trust and performing his duties with reasonable care, skill, and caution.

5. Protect trust assets.  The trustee is always obligated to take reasonable steps to protect the assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries.  Again, there is a moral calling for the trustee to never act in his own interest when it comes to the administration of the trust.

6. Use expertise.  Many times, a trustee representative will be chosen by the grantor of the trust because of the trustee’s special skills or expertise.  Accordingly, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to use those special skills and expertise when handling the trust.

7. Keep beneficiaries informed.  This is the duty where many trustee representatives drop the ball and is the one most important to trust beneficiaries.  A trustee owes a duty to keep trust beneficiaries reasonably informed about the assets in the trust and must give an accounting for the assets, income, and expenses of the trust.

8. Defend and enforce claims.  There are occasions when trust is either sued by creditors of the grantor or must sue to protect trust property.  Thus, the trustee has a duty to enforce the trust’s claims and defend the trust against any legal actions.

9. Annual reporting.  A trustee has the duty to give the trust beneficiaries an accounting of the assets and liabilities of the trust on an annual basis, at the very least.

As you can see, a trustee has a lot of responsibility to act morally, honestly, and reliably towards the trust and the trust beneficiaries.  If you are a trust beneficiary, then you might consider getting the help of an experienced probate attorney to assist you with getting the information you need from a trustee.   

Contact Doane & Doane for Help Getting the Trust Information You Need

Founded in 2003 by husband and wife legal team, Randell C. Doane and Rebecca G. Doane, Doane & Doane provides legal and financial services to families, individuals, and businesses throughout Southeast Florida.

Estate planning is about much more than just giving away property.  It is an act of love and kindness, with the ultimate goal of providing for the future financial security of your loved one.  At Doane & Doane, our tax and estate professionals help people plan for retirement, consider various types of wills and trusts, make provisions for loved ones, figure out future child support, and minimize tax liability.  Experienced wills and trusts attorneys know which tools to use to get the best results for their clients.  Our lawyers can help you determine which tools are best suited to your specific circumstances.

When it comes to probate matters, such as the formal administration of an estate, Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys at Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates.  Notably, the founding partners of Doane & Doane are board-certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys.  With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trusts and estates.

Since the day we opened our doors, we have worked hard to earn a reputation as one of the region’s most prominent tax and estate planning law firms in Palm Beach County, Florida. Our dynamic team includes the firm’s founding partners, experienced associate attorneys, and an outstanding team of paralegals, legal assistants, and support

Call the Palm Beach County lawyers at Doane & Doane, P.A.  You can reach us at 561-656-0200.  Call us today.

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.