Your friend Rose has established a trust and would like you to be a trustee. Despite your desire to help, you are afraid to take on so much responsibility. The property would be managed by you on behalf of Rose and others whom she names as beneficiaries. As a trustee, you could be paying her bills and taxes, overseeing bank accounts, making investments, collecting rent or unpaid debts, getting insurance if needed, and doing whatever else the trust directs you to do. In law, trustees are called "fiduciaries." "Fiduciary" comes from the Latin for "trust." To merit Rose's trust, you must act in her best interests, with the highest ethical standards of good faith and honesty.
It is a lot of responsibility, but the government is here to help. The Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) has issued a guide: “Managing Someone Else’s Money: Help for Trustees Under a Revocable Trust.” Download your free guide here.
The leaflet emphasizes the need to document everything you do. It lists your duties, provides contact information for helpful agencies, and includes advice about what to do if you fear Rose is being exploited.
There is significant work to be done as a trustee, but if you need help managing your duties, the leaflet encourages you to consult professionals like lawyers and CPAs, or a range of government agencies. You can also obtain “errors and omissions” insurance to cover you in case you make a mistake.
The person who has asked you to serve in this significant role has faith in you, appreciates your ability to have a good relationship with people, and believes you can do the job. That is an honor. On the other hand, before you accept, it would be wise to go into this experience with your eyes open, to make sure you’re willing and able to accept responsibility.
Consult the leaflet first, to familiarize yourself with what is being asked of you. If you would like to discuss ways we can help, please contact our office at (352) 565-7737. Conversations are complimentary.