Serving as a Trustee

Taking on the job of trustee is a big commitment. Be sure you know what you're getting into.

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If you're asked to serve as the trustee of someone's trust, it's an honor--it means the person who created the trust judged you reliable, honest, and capable. But serving as a trustee can entail a lot of responsibility, and you should carefully consider the workload you're taking on before you accept the job.

The good news is that if you're asked to be the "successor trustee" of a simple living trust, you shouldn't have a lot of work. A simple living trust works like a will--it says who should inherit what--but distributing property after the death is easier than with a will. Instead of going through probate court, you can just follow the instructions in the trust document and turn over trust property to the people who inherit it. The whole thing can probably be done in weeks or a few months. Of course, sometimes there are complications, and if there's no will or if you're also named the executor of the will (that's common), then you'll have more work to do.

If the trust is more complicated--for example, it's meant to hold property for children until they grow up--then your job will be more complicated as well. You'll have to make investment decisions, deal with beneficiaries, and file tax returns, possibly for many years.

Serving as Executor? Nolo Can Help.

Find a local lawyer for advice or handle the estate yourself with nolo's award winning do-it-yourself legal books.

The Executor's Guide

The Executor's Guide

Settle an estate or trust with this all-in-one guide for executors. The Executor's Guide will help you make progress one step at a time through the unfamiliar land of legal procedures and terminology.

The Trustee's Legal Companion

The Trustee's Legal Companion

Learn the ins and outs of being a trustee with this guide for every trust administrator. The Trustee’s Legal Companion shows you exactly how to proceed within the terms of the trust and your state's law.

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