Why are trustees important and what do they do

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Trustees: An overview by Terese Kingman

Trustees have a great deal of responsibility when dealing with trust property. A trustee has a range duties which includes safeguarding trust assets by checking the terms of the trust, collecting money due to the trust or estate (even if this means enforcing any loans due to the trust), investing the trust fund in accordance with the trust deed and distributing the assets.

What happens if the trustee makes an overpayment of income to a beneficiary?

The trustee may correct this mistake by adjusting future payments or if the trustee has made the payment to the wrong recipient then he may attempt to recover this payment from that person.

Are beneficiaries under a trust fund entitled to ask questions of the trustees?

Yes, and the trustees must give the beneficiaries “reasonable” information. Basically a trustee must keep all trust documents, including accounts, title deeds, share certificates and investments documents and make these available so that beneficiaries can have sight of them.. Essentially these documents are the property of the beneficiaries.

What does a trustee do if trust property is subject to a life interest?

This will usually mean that property is held in trust for a life tenant to obtain the income from that property during their lifetime and on their death the property is to pass to another named beneficiary. The trustee must act with the standard duty of care expected of a trustee and make all prudent investments, taking into account the needs of the life tenant (who will receive the income from the investment during their lifetime) and the needs of those entitled to the capital once the life interest ends. Often the trust deed will include details of what type of investments are to be made by the trustees.

Is a trustee able to sell trust property?

Yes. A trustee has the powers of an absolute owner and can even postpone a sale. However, in order to sell any property there must be at least two trustees able to sign the contract for sale.

What does a trustee do with monies held on trust for infants?

The trustees may use whole or part of the income from trust property for the maintenance, education and benefit of any child beneficiary. The income will usually be paid to the child’s parent or guardian or can be applied directly if, say, the trustees are instructed to pay school/college fees. Any income not used in this way must be invested. Furthermore, a trustee has the discretion to advance up to 50% of the capital to a beneficiary (whether or not a child beneficiary). Usually this type of payment will be made with a view to establishing the beneficiary in life, for example, the payment could be used to buy a house or a business.

What happens if a trustee breaches the terms of the trust?

A trustee will be personally liable if he does an act which he should not do or fails do something which he should have done concerning the administration of the trust. This will be discussed further in a future article.

If you have any queries on the above article please contact Terese Kingman at Slee Blackwell 2 Lime Court Pathfields Business Park South Molton on 01769 575982 or email at [email protected]