Trustee Responsibilities: A Guide to Effective Trust Management

Agreeing to be a trustee is a significant responsibility that only some people can or should take on. It comes with tremendous rules to follow, understandably so, considering you are in charge of managing another person’s assets. Knowing some of the primary responsibilities of handling a trust, your duties and obligations, and the rules and stipulations allow you to decide if the task is for you. 


Put aside all personal feelings


When you are a trustee, there can be no such thing as involving personal feelings about the trust. Considering someone thought enough of you to have you be a part of their estate plan, it is vital always to remain neutral, even if you do not like the beneficiaries or agree with the terms. Remember, others may see some self-interesting actions as illegal and fraudulent.


Have the proper paperwork available


Every decision must be backed up with proof via paperwork, whether about investments, real estate, or something else. This documentation encourages more diplomatic and careful behavior with decisions. In addition, it can also help protect you as a trustee, proving you acted in the trust’s best interest and have the evidence to show it. All records must be accurate, thorough, and up-to-date, including when you must show them to a trust attorney, such as from


Understand the grantor’s wishes


It is essential to sit down and discuss the grantor’s wishes with them. It can provide valuable insight into what they want, why they made their decisions, and what they want and expect from you as the trustee. The discussion can also help you answer beneficiary’s questions should they have them in the future.

One of the best things to consider doing is writing up a list of questions you have for the grantor and requesting they write down responses. It may seem odd, but it allows you to have their wishes written down in their handwriting when they are of sound mind and body. The information can help you stay focused on being a trustee, especially if you have challenging days where you are wondering why you agreed in the first place.


Be willing to work as a team with the executor


If you are not both the trustee and executor, then there is a separate executor with whom you will likely have to work closely. Especially if it is a complex trust that has the potential to continue well after the grantor’s death, the two of you must find a way to work together to ensure everything is handled legally, in a neutral manner, and in the best interest of the trust and the grantor’s wishes. 


Work as a team if there is a co-trustee


You may have to work with one or more co-trustees on the trust. Everything regarding the trust, from signing paperwork to making decisions, typically falls equally on all co-trustees rather than one more than the other(s). One does not have more overall power than any of the other trustees. 

A benefit of co-trustees is that you can help keep each other in check and ensure everything gets done correctly. However, there is also the risk that the co-trustees can clash. Anyone deemed a co-trustee must commit to put personal feelings aside and work together, not just in the best interests of the trust and the grantor but also for the sake of the beneficiaries. 


Don’t make reckless decisions


It is one thing to take risks with your own money and assets, but it is another when you are taking risks with a trust that someone put in your hands to manage legally and competently. Reckless decisions and being a trustee do not belong together in any regard. Every move you make with the trust must be carefully thought out, planned, and double-checked.


Always act in the best interest of the trust


Regarding the trust, there are no shortcuts, half-baked decisions, or questionable actions. There also cannot be any instances of intentional, accidental, or perceived self-interest. Every move and decision you make as the trustee must be in the trust’s best interest and the grantor’s wishes.  


Uphold the rules and stipulations


It is a must to uphold the rules and stipulations of the trust, even if you do not entirely agree with them. For example, if you feel a beneficiary should not receive money, you must adhere to the grantor’s wishes and legal regulations. Not doing so goes against everything you promised to do on the grantor’s behalf and can also be deemed illegal.

To become a trustee, you must research to understand the process thoroughly. Before agreeing to do anything, ask questions about the task, such as what is involved and approximately how long you will remain a trustee. Only commit once you are entirely sure you can fulfill the essential obligations involved.