Trusts are a useful estate planning tool for many Florida residents. Trusts require a trustee to manage the assets in a trust. Generally, the creator of the trust will serve as the trustee until they pass away or become incapacitated, at which point the assigned trustee will take over. The successor trustee will then be asked to manage all affairs relating to the trust by:
- Distributing trust funds to beneficiaries
- Keeping track of expenses, income, and other financial transactions
- Filing taxes on behalf of the trust
As the trustee manages the affairs of the trust, they must fulfill their fiduciary duties, which are required under Florida law.
Obligations of a trustee
Trustees have several legal duties that they must adhere to when administering a trust. Under Chapter 736 of the Florida Trust Code, these duties include:
- Duty of loyalty: Acting solely in the best interests of the beneficiaries (avoid self-dealing).
- Duty to inform: Keep beneficiaries reasonably informed regarding trust.
- Impartiality: Treating all beneficiaries fairly and equally.
- Prudence: Exercising reasonable care when administering the trust.
- Separation of assets: Keep accurate records of trust property, which should be kept separately from personal assets.
If a trustee breaches any of the above duties, the court may remove them from their role as trustee and require them to pay damages for any harm they caused. If you are choosing a trustee for your trust, it is important to make sure to choose someone you can rely on to carry out your wishes and handle the responsibilities that come with overseeing an estate. An estate planning attorney specializing in trust administration can help make sure you choose the best person for the job.