What are the powers of a trustee in administering a trust?

The trustee, a person or institution who administers a trust, has considerable authority and responsibility. A trustee is not under direct court supervision. For those reasons, trustees must be chosen carefully. The trustee has fiduciary responsibilities in overseeing administration of the trust and managing distributions to the trust beneficiaries. California law imposes specific duties on a trustee:

  • Loyalty: the trust must be managed solely for the interests of the beneficiaries
  • Safeguarding trust property: the trustee must protect the trust property
  • Avoiding commingling: trust assets must be kept separate from the trustee's own property and from other property
  • Dealing impartially with beneficiaries

In a living trust, the grantor (creator) of the trust normally names himself or herself as trustee during his or her lifetime. The document creating the living trust also names a successor trustee to take over those responsibilities at the grantor's death.