J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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What are the duties of a Florida trustee?

Many Floridians, including residents of Polk County, may choose to create a trust as part of their overall estate plan. Creating a trust naturally involves nominating a trustee to handle the ongoing obligations of trust administration. Unlike the personal representative named under a will, a trustee's obligations can continue for years or even decades.

It is particularly important, then, for a trustee to know what his or her legal duties are with respect to the trust, especially when the trustee is a family member or friend who does not have experience handling trusts on a regular basis. The nuances of these legal responsibilities are probably best discussed with a Florida trusts and estates attorney, but we can offer some general pointers.

Probably the most basic duty is that the trustee must follow both Florida law and the terms and conditions of the trust when administering the trust. In other words, the trustee is not free to do whatever he or she thinks best with respect to the trust's property. Along with the duty to follow the law is the trustee's duty to act in the best interests of those who stand to benefit from the trust, usually other family members or a person's favorite charity.

Alongside those most basic duties, there are also the duties to keep beneficiaries reasonably informed about the status of the trust and what the trustee has been doing with respect to the property held in the trust. Finally, a trustee has to follow the "prudent investor" rule, meaning that the trustee has to use reasonable care in investing all funds held in trust. This means a trustee can neither be overly aggressive in investing nor fail to try to invest the funds at all.

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