The Role of the Trustee
Trusts offer many benefits (minimizing tax exposure, asset protection, supporting beneficiaries, and more). However, a trust requires a trustee, with several important skills. A good trustee will have the time and ability to:
- Properly administer the trust, including providing accountings to beneficiaries and filing annual tax returns.
- Manage trust assets, typically financial investments and real estate. In many cases, trust investing is delegated to a third party investment manager, hired and overseen by the trustee.
- Make appropriate distributions to trust beneficiaries in keeping with the trust creator’s intent and the specific direction of the trust.
- Support and mentor trust beneficiaries to learn basic financial skills (such as making and living by a budget) and develop life goals that can be supported by the trust assets. This role can, at times, require some tough love and even being “the bad guy”. When done well, the trustee provides support, wisdom, and guidance to help the beneficiary live their best life possible.
How We Help Our Clients
We help our clients in several ways:
- We advise trustees to carry out their responsibilities. These trustees typically have a relationship with the beneficiaries and are capable people. They simply need some guidance from time to time from someone with trustee experience.
- We serve as co-trustee. We work closely with a family member trustee (or friend), “dividing and conquering” our trustee roles and responsibilities in the way that makes most sense. In these situations we often take the lead on the investment oversight and tax filings, while the family member/friend trustee takes greater lead on distribution decisions and mentoring.
- We serve as sole trustee. We handle all four trustee responsibilities described above.
Unlike most corporate trustees, our fees are not based on a percentage of the trust assets, which can be significant for large trusts. In most cases, we charge only for the time we spend at a trustee, bookkeeper, or administrator hourly rate. Our clients appreciate the value we bring and that we charge only for services we provide.
Some clients ask us to serve as trustee of the trusts they create for their loved ones. We take this responsibility very seriously and find it is a joy to work in this capacity as we carry out our clients’ wishes both during their lifetime and after. We welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss the needs of (and vision you have for) your trust beneficiaries, how a trust can be created to support that vision, and how we might be able to help that vision become a reality by serving as trustee.
Here are some of our favorite resources for both trustees and trust beneficiaries:
Family Trusts, A Guide for Beneficiaries, Trustees, Trust Protectors, and Trust Creator
By Hartley Goldstone, Hames E. Hughes Jr, and Keith Whitaker
Trustworthy, New Angles on Trusts from Beneficiaries and Trustees
By Hartley Goldstone and Kathy Wiseman