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The fiduciary duty of a trustee and potential consequences

So you recently found out that you have been named trustee to a loved one's trust. You don't think this is a big deal and that trust administration just means having your name on a legal document. However, this idea is absolutely incorrect.

As someone named trustee you first have to accept the role to even officially become the trustee. Once you accept the role then you own a set of legal responsibilities. This legal duty is called a "fiduciary duty." If this sounds like a big deal, that is because it is something that needs to be taken very seriously.

Why is the fiduciary duty as trustee so serious?

If you do not fulfill your legal duties as the fiduciary, then you could be sued for failing to do so. Your siblings or other beneficiaries of the trust could sue you for failing to meet all of your legal obligations as the trustee. Money could be coming out of your pocket as a consequence of this.

Here are just some of the duties that are spelled out under California's Probate Code Section 16000-16015:

  • Trustee has a duty to administer the trust in a way that benefit's the beneficiaries of the trust.
  • Trustee must remain impartial among more than one beneficiary of the trust.
  • Trustee must not administer the property of the trust in a way that is adverse to interests of beneficiaries or for the trustee's own profit.
  • Trustee has a duty to keep the trust property productive under the given circumstances.

Keep in mind these are just a few and not all of the listed duties of a trustee under California law. If you have been named trustee, it is to your benefit to obtain an attorney. Discuss your trust administration case with an experienced trust attorney in California as soon as possible.

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