The death of a loved one is never easy, and in the period following, there are many decisions to make and issues to resolve. When the property and assets of the deceased are in a trust, it can make the process of distributing assets easier and less stressful for beneficiaries. After a person passes away, the trustee is responsible for taking care of all the matters regarding the trust and will distribute the property according to the wishes of the deceased. A trustee is a legal representative who oversees a trust after someone’s death. Beneficiaries are often concerned with the handling of the estate and the many decisions that the trustee must make at this time.
What is a Trustee?
A trustee is a person who acts as the custodian of a person’s assets that are held in a trust. A trustee over an estate is typically appointed by the grantor, the person making the trust. The trustee oversees the trust or estate after the grantor passes away. The trustee is generally a person without any interest in the trust and is not a beneficiary because there could be a conflict of interest. The trustee handles all of the issues of the grantor’s estate and acts on behalf of the grantor. A trustee typically gets compensation for services from the assets of the trust.
A Trustee’s Duty of Loyalty
A trustee has a duty of loyalty to the trust. The person appointed as trustee must abide by the rules and guidelines set forth in the trust. That is the primary requirement of a trustee. The trustee has to abide by the trust and does not have any authorization to do anything else, regardless of the requests of beneficiaries. At the same time, the trustee must account for the actions and transactions of the trust and have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust. Some of these duties include:
- Duty to preserve the trust property
- Duty to act in good faith
- Duty of impartiality between beneficiaries
- Duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries
A trustee acts as the legal contact and has many responsibilities. The trustee will manage and administer the finances of the trust in an appropriate manner. The trustee will prepare taxes, keep track of the assets, invest assets, and handle all the financial issues, as well as provide information to beneficiaries as needed. A trustee may be a friend or family member, an attorney, or a company hired to perform this task.
Can a Trustee Sell Property?
A trustee has the major task of overseeing the trust after the death of the grantor. Wisconsin Code Chapter 701.19(2)(d) states that “a trustee may not sell individually owned assets to the trust unless the sale is authorized in the creating instrument, made with written consent of all beneficiaries, or made with the approval of the court upon notice and hearing.”
However, it is important to note that the trustee is allowed to act based on the intentions of the grantor. There are some instances where the trustee may sell property. It is best to maintain regular contact with the trustee to ensure that you will be aware of any issues that arise.
Trusts can be extremely helpful in the distribution and administration of an estate. They can also be complex. To learn more about trusts and get legal guidance, contact our attorneys at Moen Sheehan Meyer, LTD. at (608) 784-8310 or online.