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What are the duties of a trustee?

A trustee in the state of California has the responsibility of managing property in a trust that has been established for an individual's beneficiaries. The trustee is required to adhere to the requirements that the creator of the trust, also known as the settlor, mandated.

Trustees are required to preserve and protect the trust's assets. Trustees have their powers spelled out in the trust document and they are required to comply with those orders as long as they do not violate California law or a court does not issue other orders. They manage the property to assist the beneficiaries in ways the settlor intended.

They can make investments, sell assets, handle trust bills and expenses, make repairs to property in the trust, and make distributions to beneficiaries in accordance with rules of the trust. Trustees need to be equitable in their actions and not favor one beneficiary over another. They also need to avoid any conflict of interest or taking actions that could be construed as being done for their own financial gain instead of assisting the beneficiaries.

Trustees also need to keep property in the trust separate from other individuals' property. The designated trustees also need to tackle the trust requirements themselves. If they need to designate a responsibility to another party, they need to oversee that individual or entity's work. Keepers of trusts must also maintain detailed records and make periodic reports to the state regarding activities of the trust.

Each legal situation is different, and the information in this blog should not be taken as legal advice. A person who is looking to establish a trust might consult with a wills and estates lawyer. A lawyer can help establish the rules that look after beneficiaries and inform a trustee of his or her rights and obligations.

Source: The Superior Court of California, "Probate Trusts", September 28, 2014

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