A friend of yours, Rose, has asked you to be the trustee of her trust. You want to help, but you’re concerned about all that responsibility. You would be managing Rose’s property for her and for others whom she names as beneficiaries. You might be paying her bills and taxes, overseeing bank accounts, making investments, collecting rent or unpaid debts, getting insurance if needed, and doing whatever else the trust directs you to do. People named as trustees are considered in law as “fiduciaries.” “Fiduciary” stems from the Latin for “trust.” To merit that trust, you must act in Rose’s best interests, to the highest ethical standards of good faith and honesty.
It is a lot of responsibility, but the government is here to help. The Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) has issued a guide: “Managing Someone Else’s Money: Help for Trustees Under a Revocable Trust.” Download your free guide here.
The leaflet emphasizes the need to document everything you do. It lists your duties, provides contact information for helpful agencies, and includes advice about what to do if you fear Rose is being exploited.
There is significant work to be done as a trustee, but if you need help managing your duties, the leaflet encourages you to consult professionals like lawyers and CPAs, or a range of government agencies. You can also obtain “errors and omissions” insurance to cover you in case you make a mistake.
The person who has asked you to serve in this important role has faith in you, appreciates your ability to get along with people, and believes you can do the job. That is an honor. On the other hand, before you accept, it would be wise to go into this experience with your eyes open, to make sure you’re willing and able to accept the responsibility.
Consult the leaflet first, to familiarize yourself with what is being asked of you. Contact our Chicago area office at 630-568-6656 to discuss how we can help you with any legal questions you may have.