A trustee has many duties and must comply with both the duties set forth in the trust document and the duties under the Florida Trust Code. Failure to fulfill these duties could result in a breach of trust and liability.
“A trustee must act in good faith in accordance with the provisions of the trust and administer the trust in the best interest of the beneficiaries, as required by law.”
Major duties of the trustee:
- Duty of loyalty. The trustee must administer the trust solely in the interest of beneficiaries under Florida law. That means they must not engage in self-dealing or put their own interests above those of the beneficiaries. Actions that constitute a conflict of interest may be void under the Florida Trust Code.
- Duty to preserve assets and make them productive. The trustee is required to take control of and protect trust property. They must avoid commingling the trust property with their own property. The trustee must make the assets productive by investing them consistent with the requirements of Florida's Prudent Investor Rule, which is set forth in law. A trustee may delegate this duty, but is responsible for vetting the qualifications of the agent, such as a financial advisor, and for supervisor their performance.
- Duty to keep beneficiaries informed and provide accountings. Upon reasonable request, the trustee must provide relevant information about the assets and liabilities of the trust, as well as a copy of the trust document. The trustee of an irrevocable trust must provide a legally sufficient accounting at least annually to qualified beneficiaries. This must also be done upon termination of a trust or a change in trustee. These accountings and disclosures impose significant deadlines for the beneficiaries who want to raise any claim on an issue set forth in the accounting or disclosure.
- Duty of impartiality. The trustee must act impartially with respect to the beneficiaries. For example, a trustee cannot "favor" one beneficiary over another in the distribution of principal or income. It also means they cannot favor the current beneficiaries over the remainder beneficiaries.
A trustee has important duties, which are similar to the personal representative in a probate administration. If you have questions or concerns about a trust or a trustee's duties in general, please contact us.