Over the past few months, we’ve discussed the overall scope of the new trust law and which rules you can change to meet your family’s needs. This month, we’re taking a closer look at the trustee role itself. If you’ve been offered the role of trustee, be aware that the new trust code has greatly expanded the trustee’s duties but shortened the time for completing some them. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you understand what you are getting into when you agree to serve as trustee.

In the Beginning

  1. Accept or decline the trusteeship (If you decline, you’re done and you can stop right here.)
  2. Identify necessary trust elements (does the trust set out beneficiaries, are there charities, what your duties are)
  3. Identify the date the trust became irrevocable (This usually occurs when someone dies because the deceased is the only person who has the power to amend or revoke the trust. When there is no one left to amend or revoke it, the trust becomes irrevocable.)
  4. Identify current beneficiaries
  5. Identify presumptive remainder beneficiaries
  6. Identify qualified beneficiaries
  7. Identify any representatives
  8. Identify who has powers of appointment and their role(s)
  9. Identify the trust’s purpose
  10. Identify provisions that modify the Code’s mandatory provisions
  11. Confirm safe harbors
  12. Confirm the place of administration is appropriate for trust’s purpose, administration and beneficiaries’ interests
  13. Identify if there is a spendthrift provision
  14. Determine if the trust was revocable at settlor’s death
  15. Inventory trust assets and abandon or decline property as needed
  16. Review trust and trustee liability insurance with an insurance expert
  17. Provide notices to qualified beneficiaries (within 90 days)
  18. Implement investment strategy and execute required changes (within 90 days)
  19. Document procedures for delivery of information to each beneficiary


  1. Prepare and send required accounting to beneficiaries
  2. Reconfirm investment strategy for assets
  3. Reconfirm place of administration is appropriate for trust’s purpose, administration and beneficiaries’ interests
  4. Review actions of any agents

At Termination

  1. Prepare and send accounting to appropriate beneficiaries

Other Tasks to Keep in Mind

  1. Notify qualified beneficiaries of changes in trustee compensation
  2. Notify qualified beneficiaries of trustee resignation, incapacity or co-trustee removal
  3. If trust value nears $100,000, determine if continued administration is beneficial
  4. If trust value decreases, determine if property is best abandoned
  5. If change in circumstances: reset investment strategy for assets
  6. If change in circumstances: reconfirm place of administration is appropriate for trust’s purpose, administration and beneficiaries’ interests
  7. If change in circumstances: reidentify current and qualified beneficiaries
  8. Consider obtaining beneficiary consent or release for key decisions
  9. Disclose trustee’s fiduciary capacity in each contract

Understandably, this is a lot to do. In fact, it’s pretty overwhelming, and the lawmakers have created a whole bunch of new terms and funny word combinations (like, “presumptive remainder beneficiary”) that increase your risk of doing something wrong during trust administration. Beware, the trust laws can impose personal liability for screw-ups. That’s why this is really the time to hire a professional who can help you protect yourself.

Generation Law’s attorneys can help you understand the rules of the specific trust and how to carry out your duties in a way that works for you and your beneficiaries. But if it’s all just too much, you can always resign your trusteeship and throw that hot potato to the next person in line.