Trustees are granted broad powers over assets held in trust. Frequently, the creator of a trust is named as trustee, with a successor trustee identified as part of the trust documents to serve after the creator passes away.
A trustee’s powers come from trust documents, as well as state and federal trust law. However, a trustee typically has broad powers over trust income and assets, including the ability to buy or liquidate assets, distribute income or assets and settle or contest outstanding liabilities.
Our trust attorneys in Denver frequently recommend trusts for estates of all sizes as part of a comprehensive estate plan. The many benefits of a trust include privacy, the ability to bypass the probate process, faster and more cost effective estate settlement, tax advantages, and the ability to provide beneficiary income without liquidating trust assets. However, precisely because most trusts will be administered with little or no probate oversight, those dealing with issues of fraud or incompetence involving a trustee should always seek the help and advice of an experienced trust litigation attorney in Denver as soon as possible.
Trustee Authority and Obligations in Colorado
Trustees have fiduciary duties under Colorado law, meaning they are legally responsible for managing, preserving and administering assets for the benefit of named beneficiaries.
While trust documents generally outline the scope and duration of a trustee’s duties, including how assets are to be managed and to whom they are to be distributed, trust documents also often include complicated, ambiguous or conflicting obligations. Additionally, the issues are complicated by the fact that a trustee may also be a beneficiary of the trust or estate. Because of the strict legal obligations and associated liabilities that come with servicing as a trustee, it is common for a trustee to seek the legal help of an experienced trust attorney in Denver as part of the estate-settlement process.
In addition to duties outlined by trust documents, trustees have ethical and administrative duties under Colorado law, including:
- Impartiality: Not to favor one party (including yourself) over another.
- Loyalty: An obligation not to put your own interests ahead of or in conflict with those of the trust.
- Care: A duty to administer the trust with care and prudence and to always act to further the interests of the trust and its beneficiaries.
- Self-dealing: An obligation not to enter into transactions that will benefit yourself at the expense of the trust or other beneficiaries.
- Co-mingling: A prohibition against mingling your assets with trust assets.
- Registering: You must register the trust agreement with probate court within 30 days by filing a Trust Registration Statement.
- Notice: A Trust Registration Statement must be sent to all beneficiaries. This will inform beneficiaries of the county and court that will have jurisdiction over disputes. Unless the trust agreement provides otherwise, you must also provide the trust agreement and asset information at the request of a beneficiary.
- Accounting: Proper financial records must be kept and reported in accordance with trust documents, but at least annually.
- Taxes: The trust must have a Tax Identification Number and must properly file state and federal taxes.
- Management: You must keep assets properly invested and managed and will be held to a higher standard than if you were investing your own assets.
- Distribution: Assets must be properly held and distributed at appropriate times to the proper beneficiaries, as outlined in trust documents.
The personal liability of trustees and the accounting for allowable compensation and payment of expenses mean consulting with an experienced trust attorney in Denver is frequently among the first actions taken by a prudent trustee. Because such expenses are typically paid for out of the trust, experienced legal help can offer invaluable advice, assistance and protection throughout the trust administration process.
With over 40 years of trust and estate-settlement experience, the attorneys at Evans Case LLP are some of the most experienced probate attorneys in the Denver area. We are your local advocates, and will relentlessly fight for the welfare of you and your loved one. Seeking experienced legal help as early as possible in the process is the best strategy as it’s likely to be more effective than challenging the existing orders of the court.
If you are dealing with estate-settlement or trust issues in Colorado, call 303-757-8300 today to speak to a Denver trust litigation attorney at Evans Case LLP.
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