What are the duties and responsibilities of a Successor Trustee?

A Successor Trustee’s most important duty is to implement the Trust’s instructions concerning how the trust property should be used to aid the beneficiaries. Whereas guardians decide how to take care of a beneficiary’s physical needs, the Successor Trustee decides how to use trust assets to pay for those needs. Among other responsibilities, a Successor Trustee has the following responsibilities:

• Making an inventory of trust assets;
• Protecting trust assets and making sure they are properly invested;
• Preparing an accounting for beneficiaries;
• Implementing the Trust’s instructions as to how trust assets are to be distributed to the beneficiaries or otherwise used for their benefit.

The Successor Trustee need not make these decisions alone. The trust authorizes the Successor Trustee to obtain whatever professional services are necessary to carry out the trust’s instructions. Such professionals may include investment advisors, attorneys, insurance agents or certified public accountants.

Each state has statutory guidelines that regulate a trustee’s responsibilities. Trustees must use reasonable business judgment in the investment, management, and diversification of the trust assets, taking into account the needs of the beneficiaries. Additionally, trustees must not allow trust assets to be wasted or invest money or other property in speculative or other imprudent investments.