A trustee can be considered something like a manager or a CEO of a trust. With that role, a trustee has a legal duty to administer the trust consistent with the terms of the trust and the laws applicable to the trust. Failing to carry out these duties could result in legal trouble for the trustee!
Some of these duties are intuitive—a trustee is responsible for managing trust assets, keeping trust records, and making distributions from the trust when required.
Some trustee duties are less obvious—a trustee may have a duty to give a financial report or an accounting to some trust beneficiaries and a trustee may be responsible for making complex financial and investment decisions for a trust.
The duties of a trustee may also change over time. In most cases, when you create a trust you are both the trustee and the beneficiary and you have more flexibility over what you can and cannot do. That makes sense because you’re responsible for your own self.
However, the duties of a trustee may increase in some cases, such as after the person making the trust dies. When that happens, the trustee may have the give legal notices to beneficiaries, make accounting and tax decisions, and potentially deal with courts. Many trustees hire an attorney and/or an accountant to help with these decisions.
While this article is not a detailed list of all trustee duties, it is intended to show that the role of a trustee is a key position and the responsibilities are very serious.