Trust Administration differs from Probate Administration. In a Michigan Probate administration, it is the Personal Representative who administers the Estate. However, in a Trust Administration, it is the Trustee’s responsibility to administer the Estate pursuant to the instructions of the Trust. Have you been named as a Trustee of a trust? A Trustee has many duties as well as an ethical obligation to protect the trust assets and the interests of the beneficiaries.
When a person dies leaving a valid trust, a Trust Administration becomes necessary to carry out the wishes of the decedent as written in his or her trust. The person who created the trust, the Trustor, appoints a Trustee to administer the trust upon their passing and essentially distribute the assets to the named beneficiaries in the trust. A Trustee must act in their fiduciary capacity in the administration of a trust, which means the Trustee has an obligation to protect the trust assets and the interests of the beneficiaries.
The basic duties of a Trustee involve the collection, management, investment, and distribution of trust assets. It is also important to keep detailed records as well as prepare an accounting, an inventory, and possibly obtain appraisals. The principal source of Trustee powers and duties is the trust agreement itself, so it is important for the Trustee to be familiar with the terms of the trust. Another important set of duties relates to tax matters. Often times it is necessary to prepare a federal estate tax return (706), an income tax return (1041), and possibly a fiduciary tax return. Our firm will be able to assist with all of the tax matters for the estate. We recommend all Trustees meet with one of our notably experienced Attorneys to determine if a tax return is necessary.
If someone exceeds their Trustee powers, they may be held liable for loss or damages to the trust Estate. A Trustee can carry out all Trustee duties; however, it is recommended that they hire attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, and others to consult with concerning the administration of the trust. Such advisors are usually paid through the assets of the trust, so there is normally no out of pocket costs to the Trustee. Our law firm will work with the Trustee and beneficiaries to have the trust administered in a timely and professional manner. We can offer peace of mind to the Trustee by making sure the terms of the trust agreement have been satisfied.
If you have been appointed as a Successor Trustee or are currently acting as a Trustee, contact Stewart and Bruss, P.C. today so that we can assist you in fulfilling your fiduciary duties.