In for the long haul – Trustees
Trustees run any trusts set up by your will. A trust is a legal device whereby a trustee is legally responsible for looking after property for a beneficiary. Property is not just bricks and mortar – it means any type of asset, such as cash or shares. A trustee can also be a beneficiary. If you don’t plan to set up a trust in your will, you won’t need to name trustees.
Trusts are most commonly used to leave property to a minor (someone under 18).
Remember that being a trustee can be a long and drawn-out process. If, for example, the minor you left property to is only a few months’ old when you die, then the trustees have to look after the property for them for the best part of 18 years. In cases where a trust is set up to provide income for the whole of the life of a beneficiary (for example, a trust set up to provide for a spouse who keeps going strong for years and years), it can end up running for decades. Often with long-running trusts the trustees retire and are replaced by someone else who is happy to fill in the void. The replacement or retirement of a trustee may require the permission of the trustees, the courts, or the trust beneficiaries.
Trustees can be:
Choosing a trustee who has all the qualities of an executor but who is also prepared to be in it for a long haul. You can use the same people as executors and trustees.
Trustees can be relieved of their duties by the beneficiaries, provided that they are all in agreement. Furthermore, if one of your trustees refuses to act, or dies, existing trustees have the power to appoint a replacement.
Key duties of trustees:
Any trustee you appoint has a duty to treat all your beneficiaries equally and fairly.
Trustees are obliged to:
Act unanimously if there is more than one trustee.
Ensure ‘reasonable care’ is taken of the assets in trust; for example, a house in trust should be properly insured.
Not make a profit from the trust. Nor are trustees allowed to charge for their services, unless the charges are specified in the will. Trustees, like executors, can claim their expenses though.
Be prepared to provide accounts is beneficiaries of the trust ask.