How Is Exculpation of Trustees Addressed Under the New Illinois Trust Code?

Web Admin - Monday, December 30, 2019
Mount Prospect estate planning lawyer Illinois Trust CodeAs the new year begins, many trust owners (grantors) and trustees are familiarizing themselves with the Illinois Trust Code. As of January 1st, 2020, Illinois has adopted a new set of governing rules over trusts that will be linked to the Uniform Trust Code (UTC). This law involves many changes and updates to the rules surrounding trusts, and one area that has been affected is the modification of exculpation clauses. Moving forward, both grantors and trustees should consult a legal professional to either create, adjust, or better understand their trusts. 

What Does Exculpation of a Trustee Mean?

An exculpatory clause is a provision that can be added to a trust that would relieve a designated individual from responsibility for certain actions. Under the Illinois Trust Code, the exculpation of a trustee would relieve him or her of any liability for a breach of the trust. However, trust relieving will be unenforceable if it is determined that the exculpatory term:

- Absolves a trustee of liability that is committed with deceitful intentions or with carelessness to the purpose of the trust or the interests of the beneficiaries.
- Was inserted because of a trustee’s abuse of a legal or confidential relationship with the grantor. 

Unless the trustee can prove that the exculpatory term was justified under the current situation and that it was adequately communicated to the grantor, the term will be found invalid. For example, if a trustee purposefully acted in a way that was determined to be against the trust in an effort to benefit themselves, that trustee could be responsible for his or her actions.

What Is Changing?

Under previous Illinois law, a grantor of a trust was able to exonerate a trustee from personal liability by including an exculpatory clause into the trust. Although exculpatory clauses can still be used under the Illinois Trust Code, there is now a presumption that they will be found invalid if the trustee created or forced the clause to be added. In order to prove that an exculpatory clause is legitimate, a trust maker should be represented by a third-party counsel during the drafting of the trust.

Contact a Riverwoods Estate Planning Attorney

Due to the significant changes that have been implemented under the Illinois Trust Code, it is important for trust makers and trustees to understand the new policies. If you wish to add an exculpatory clause, or if there has been a breach in your trust, you should work with an attorney to determine your legal options. At Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, our experienced Barrington trust lawyers can work with you to ensure your trust meets the requirements of Illinois law. For a free consultation, call our office today at 847-934-6000.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


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