Trustee Duties and Responsibilities in Florida
What are a Trustee’s Duties in Florida?
Understanding the responsibilities and duties required by trustees in Florida is important whether you’re setting up a trust or have recently been asked to act as a trustee yourself. Because of the substantial assets involved, there’s a lot on the line for trustees and the trust’s beneficiaries alike. This is why it’s often a good idea to engage with a lawyer no matter where you are in the estate planning process, as they often have strategies that will benefit everyone involved.
Understand the Terms of the Trust
Reading and fully comprehending the terms of the trust is critical to effectively performing your duties as a trustee. Your role is that of a manager, not a dictator. Thankfully, the trust should provide instructions to help ensure that the actions you take as the trustee are in line with the grantor’s original intentions. However, you shouldn’t just read these instructions once and assume that you’re good to go. Instead, be sure to refer to them when making decisions on behalf of the trust. Doing so can keep you from doing anything that might risk incurring personal liability or other penalties.
Make the Beneficiary the Priority
No matter how comprehensive the grantor’s estate plan was, there are going to be some decisions left up to the trustee’s discretion. In these situations, your actions as trustee should be guided by what’s best for the beneficiary or beneficiaries. This obligation is known as a fiduciary duty, and you could be held liable if you use the trust’s assets for the benefit of yourself or a third party.
Follow Laws and Standards
Investing the trust’s assets is another essential duty of the trustee. This must be done in accordance with the terms of the trust, Florida state law, and what is known as the prudent investor rule. Basically, trustees have a duty to avoid high risk investments because they could risk the trust’s sustainability. The trustee’s objective is to satisfy the purpose of the trust by making reasonably safe, careful investments. This is a significant component of the trustee’s fiduciary responsibilities, too.
Distribute Assets Per the Grantor’s Stated Wishes
Trusts are commonly used to facilitate the transfer of assets from the grantor to the beneficiaries without going through the hassle of Florida’s probate courts. The trustee’s biggest responsibility is distributing these assets according to the instructions in the grantor’s estate plan. Oftentimes, the trustee will also need to have the assets appraised before divvying up the trust’s assets. This helps ensure that each beneficiary gets their fair share.
Consider Potential Allies
By now you can see just how much work goes into serving as a trustee in Florida. Even if you’re the trust’s sole administrator, that doesn’t mean that you have to take all this on by yourself. In Florida, trustees have the option of hiring professionals to help them fulfill their responsibilities. For example, an attorney can help guide you through the different stages of administering an estate held in trust while also helping you stay on the right side of the law.
Whether you need help with setting up a trust, administering a trust, or any other aspect of estate planning, FL Patel Law has the experience and the compassion that you’re looking for in your legal team. Contact us today by scheduling an appointment through our online calendar or by calling us at (727) 279-5037.