Who Should Be Trustee?

March 1, 2001

Many people think of trusts as stodgy legal documents used primarily for leaving money to heirs. But the truth is that trusts are much more than that. Trusts can be used for a broad variety of purposes, from charitable gifting to reducing your taxes. A trust is simply a formal agreement that assigns ownership of your assets to a trustee for the good of a designated beneficiary.
When creating a trust, the question always arises, “Who should be my trustee?” Generally, clients have been limited to choosing between an individual and a bank trust department. Often, an individual is named as trustee without consideration of the expertise required in a trust administration. Individual trustees today are less able to effectively manage and administer trusts than in the past. The challenges facing individual trustees include the growing complexity of state and federal tax laws, new standards of investment responsibility, and increasingly complicated investment alternatives. When a bank trust department is chosen, the person creating the trust often has no preexisting relationship with any particular trust officer at the bank.
In the past, Ruder Ware attorneys have occasionally acted as trustee when a client has requested it. As a result of the growing complexity of trusts necessitated by the tax law and increasingly complex client goals, the desire of clients to simplify their lives by limiting the number of professional advisers, and the relationship created with the client as firm attorneys work to creatively plan for each family’s most pressing needs, firm attorneys have been requested to act as trustee with increasing frequency. To ensure the highest level of service to our clients, Ruder Ware has a practice unit called the Fiduciary Services Department.
Our attorneys acting as fiduciaries:

follow the terms of the governing instrument and applicable law and pay particular attention to the circumstances of the beneficiaries,
balance current and future needs of all those interested in the trust with the intent of the person creating the trust,
collect and distribute income or principal in accordance with the wishes of the person creating the trust as expressed in the trust document,
manage and protect trust investments,
ensure the safekeeping of the securities and other assets in the fiduciary account,
invest and reinvest the property in the fiduciary account,
consult with skilled and experienced investment advisers,
give the person creating the trust and the beneficiaries accurate and timely information regarding the assets in the trust,
prepare annual fiduciary accounts,
collect assets, and
pay debts and expenses relating to a trust administration or directly relating to a beneficiary of a trust.

The interests of clients and beneficiaries are best served if a fiduciary is kept informed of the views and objectives of the clients and beneficiaries as circumstances and conditions change. Good communication with the attorney leads to a successful beneficiary/fiduciary relationship that serves the needs of individuals and families over long periods of time. Therefore, the Fiduciary Services Department of Ruder Ware is organized to encourage direct communication with attorneys and administrative personnel. Our attorneys may act alone or with others as the fiduciary in the capacity of trustee, personal representative, special administrator, guardian, or conservator.
Ruder Ware is very excited to offer fiduciary services as an alternative when choosing a trustee. Utilizing a Ruder Ware attorney as trustee ensures continuity in the management of your trust assets and we assure you we will provide the highest level of personal service available. If you have any questions regarding fiduciary services, please contact Dan Rupar, Chair of the Fiduciary Services Department.

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This document provides information of a general nature regarding legislative or other legal developments, and is based on the state of the law at the time of the original publication of this article. None of the information contained herein is intended as legal advice or opinion relative to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues, and additional facts and information or future developments may affect the subjects addressed. You should not act upon the information in this document without discussing your specific situation with legal counsel.

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