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What you Need to Know if you are an Idaho Trustee

Idaho estate planning doesn't always have to do with your own estate plan. We often have clients come to us with questions about the estate plans of others. This happens usually because the individual who comes to us has been asked to play a certain role in the estate plan of another person. This could be as a guardian of minor children, or as a personal representative over an estate, or it could be because they've been named as a trustee of a trust. Whatever you have been asked to do, we can help.

Our Idaho estate planning team of attorneys have assisted clients for over 70 years with all of their estate planning needs, including performing roles in another person's estate plan. Our team consists of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. We are proud that we can state that the lawyers on our team have each received the highest rankings possible from clients, judges, and other attorneys through notable legal rating services including Martindale & Hubbell, Justia, and AVVO. The client reviews that the lawyers on our Idaho estate planning team have received evidence their outstanding ability to service and help each of our Idaho estate planning clients.

The purpose of this webpage is to give you some clarification and assistance if you've been asked to be a trustee over another person's Idaho trust. If you have been named as a trustee for another person, here are specific things that you should know:

Understanding the Basics

The starting place for every individual who's been named as a trustee over someone else's trust is a clear understanding of their role as the trustee. The basic duties and responsibilities of a trustee are to protect the assets in the estate trust and use them based on the instructions provided in the trust itself. Most importantly the person named as the trustee needs to understand that the assets belong to the trust, and not to them as a trustee. The trustee is the individual who's been asked to keep these assets safe, and to use them how the written trust instructs.

What this really means is that the trustee must keep the trust assets safe and protected for the individuals they are designed to be distributed to. In doing this there are some additional rules that the trustee should follow. For example, if you've been named as the trustee, you should never mix trust assets with your own. You should always keep any trust accounts or investments completely separated from any other accounts or investments. Additionally, as we stated above, trust assets are to be held for other individuals who have been named as the beneficiaries. Trust assets, money, property or investments should never be used for your own benefit unless the trust authorizes it for some reason.

Additionally, the individuals who are named as the beneficiary should all be treated the same. As a trustee you do not have the ability to favor one beneficiary over another. Rather, you are required to follow the instructions in the trust as to distributions that are made either directly to or for the benefit of all of the beneficiaries. Further, in protecting trust assets for the beneficiaries you are required to invest them in a prudent or conservative way. Unless you are given specific instructions in the trust about how to invest the trust assets, your goal is to invest all trust assets and provide a reasonable amount of growth of the trust assets with a minimum of risk.

The final basic thing that you should understand as a trustee is your requirement to keep and maintain good and accurate records of all the transactions that occur with trust assets. In Idaho, you are required by law to provide at least an annual accounting to all the beneficiaries of the trust. However, the trust document that named you as a trustee and that created the trust may require you to provide an accounting more often than this. Regardless of how often a written accounting is made, the accounting should include a list of all trust assets, a list of how these trust assets were invested, a description of any distributions that have occurred since the last accounting was made, and a description of any returns or losses that have occurred with the invested trust assets.

You are not Alone

The next most important thing for you to understand is that as the trustee you are not alone. Most individuals have never served as a trustee before. As a result, they have no experience or idea of what they need to do as a trustee. For this reason, we often assist and encourage individuals who are named as trustees to get help. They can do this by hiring professionals to assist them. These professionals could be accountants, attorneys, financial advisors, or other professionals as well.

For example, if some of the property in a trust includes rental properties, the trustee may not be required to act as a landlord all by himself. He may be able to hire a property management company to take over the management of the rental property and to collect the rents. This property management company would also assist in finding good tenants, and in going through the process of showing and renting out the properties.

However, even if you do hire professionals to assist you, you always need to remember that the responsibilities of the trust and the trust assets still lies with you. So long as you've made every effort to be prudent with the professionals that you have hired, and so long as they are providing to you advice that you believe is trustworthy, then you will be protected in your actions as a trustee. However, if you hire a financial advisor who gives you bad advice, that you know is bad, but you follow it anyway, you may ultimately be responsible for the losses that occur to the trust based on that investment.

You are Entitled to be Paid for Your Work

The final thing that you should understand if you have been named as a trustee of an Idaho trust is that you are entitled to be paid for the work you do in carrying out the purposes of the trust. Idaho law specifically provides a statute that allows you as a trustee to be compensated for your work.

Idaho Code § 68-103, specifically states that when a trust is silent upon the subject of compensation, the trustee is entitled to the same compensation as an executor (which is reasonable compensation). Alternatively, if the trust specifies the amount the trustee is to be compensated, he is entitled to the amount specified and no more.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Idaho estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or are in need of a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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