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Acting as Trustee

By Carrie Trimpe

A loved one chose you to act as Trustee of their Trust to manage and administer their affairs when they were no longer able to. Whether you anticipated assuming this role of acting as a Trustee someday or were surprised by the appointment, the responsibility can seem daunting, especially if you assume the role as Trustee during a time of stress or grief.

A Trustee is generally authorized to act upon the death or incapacity of the individual who created the Trust, often known as the grantor or settlor. In a very general sense, a Trustee’s primary responsibilities are to collect, preserve, and distribute the assets in the Trust consistent with the terms of the Trust and Michigan law.

Because you may assume this role soon after a loved one has become incapacitated or has passed away, it can be helpful to have a checklist of some of the tasks that may need to be addressed soon after your decision to accept your appointment as Trustee.

Trustee Actions

Please note, this is not intended to be an exhaustive or detailed list of all actions that must or should be taken. Rather, it is a basic checklist of some of the duties and responsibilities a Trustee may need to address upon accepting their appointment.

  • Contact immediate family members to discuss funeral arrangements or care for immediate family members, if appropriate
  • Locate the Trust, any amendments to the Trust, and any other estate plan documents
  • Read the Trust documents to determine what actions, if any, are required for you to accept your appointment as Trustee (assuming you choose to accept your appointment)
  • Identify the beneficiaries: who is or may be entitled to receive assets in the Trust, what is each beneficiary entitled to receive, and what rights do the beneficiaries have under the Trust
  • Locate the grantor’s “important documents,” which may include, but are not limited to, outstanding bills, tax documents, insurance documents, deeds to real property, titles to vehicles, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and financial documents
  • Create an inventory of the assets owned by the grantor and note how each of the assets is titled or owned to determine if a probate proceeding is necessary to transfer any assets upon the death of the grantor
  • Confirm assets are properly insured, if appropriate
  • Obtain an employer identification number, if appropriate
  • Provide notice to known and unknown creditors of the grantor, if appropriate
  • Contact professional advisors to assist with potential deadlines such as filing taxes.

While acting as a Trustee is a significant responsibility, it does not have to be overwhelming. Consider consulting with an attorney experienced in trust administration to ensure you comply with all legal requirements and be confident you are properly carrying out the wishes of your loved one. If you live in western Michigan and have questions about trusts or being a trustee, contact us at Keilen Law today. We have convenient offices located in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Call (269) 382-4818!