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The Role and Responsibilities of a Trustee

Trustee Responsibilities

Appointing a Trustee in your Will is no easy task. This person will be taking care of your estate upon death and therefore it’s imperative that they have the knowledge, skills and inclination to take on this often-complex role. Trustees are different from Executors and beneficiaries. So, let’s delve deeper into the role and responsibilities of a Trustee.

What is the Purpose of a Trust?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what a Trust is and how a Trustee fits into this situation. A Trust consists of money or assets that have been set aside for the benefit of someone else. Often, a Trust is set up because a beneficiary is under the age of 18 and needs financial supervision. A Trust may also be used to help support an adult beneficiary who lacks mental capacity or has the inability to manage their inheritance. The deceased may have one, two, three or more active Trusts and these may all have different Trustees.

What is the Role of a Trustee in a Will?

Trustees manage the money or assets in a specific Trust and decide how and when the inheritance will be allocated to the beneficiary. This is, therefore, a hugely important role and one that can impact the future of individuals such as children and spouses of the deceased. The Trustee must always act in the best interests of the beneficiary or beneficiaries, and follow the terms laid out in the Will. They cannot go rogue or start making up their own rules. If the Trustee is appointed to a Discretionary Trust, however, they are entrusted to make decisions about how the money should be spent, which, of course, can lead to family disputes.

Can a Trustee in a Will also be a Beneficiary?

Perhaps surprisingly, a Trustee can also be a beneficiary. But when writing a Will, it’s a good idea to appoint one or more Trustees with no financial interest in the Trust. This is particularly true for Discretionary Trusts as conflicts between Trustees and beneficiaries are likely to arise. As a rule, appointing two or more Trustees can also help to diminish family tensions and ensure the Trustees fulfil the purpose of the Trust fairly.

Is a Trustee the Same as an Executor?

An Executor is responsible for estate management including applying for Grant of Probate and distributing inheritance. A Kent accountant for probate services can help the Executor navigate the complex legal system and manage the deceased’s estate smoothly. The role of the Trustee kicks in when the beneficiaries are being paid from the estate. This is where the role of the Executor comes to an end.

Trustees have a crucial role to play. When writing your Will, it’s worth talking to a potential Trustee in advance to see if they’d be happy to take on this often demanding and stressful position. If you get the green light, your estate and Trust funds will hopefully be in safe hands. We recommend speaking to an expert in estate planning/IHT such as Nick Huges.

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