When Can a Trustee Be Held Personally Liable for Acts Done While Acting As a Trustee?

Web Admin - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

trustee held personally liable, Illinois Trust AttorneysAs a trustee, you are responsible for managing the trust and working with the beneficiaries. You have a fiduciary duty, or a legal obligation, to act solely in the interest of the beneficiaries by fulfilling the instructions of the trust as the trustor has required. A trustee must be respectful and careful, loyal, and impartial when serving as the trustee, and cannot take advantage of his or her trusted position to self-deal or glean benefits for him or herself from the trust. Developing a full understanding of what the legal obligations are as a trustee can be confusing, especially if you have limited legal experience dealing with trusts. An experienced estate planning and trusts lawyer at can assist you. 

A Breach of Fiduciary Duty Opens Trustees Up To Personal Liability

Trustees can be held personally liable for acts, or failures to act, as a trustee when the trustee does not carefully and diligently adhere to the trustee’s duties. When a trustee commits a breach of his or her fiduciary duty, the trustee opens him or herself up to liability for his or her actions taken while acting as the trustee. Examples where a trustee can be held personally liable for acts done while acting as a trustee include the following:

- A trustee may be held personally liable if there is a conflict of interest biasing the trustee’s judgment when it comes to the interests of the trust. Self-dealing, or making decisions or investments using the trust’s funds that in some way benefit the trustee either directly or indirectly will expose the trustee to liability;

- A trustee can be held personally liable for any interest and/or penalties that accrue for taxes filings that are made late. Liability exists because filing the appropriate tax forms on behalf of the trust is a responsibility that lies with the trustee. 

- A trustee could be held financially liable for losses on stock diversifications on behalf of the trust, or a failure to diversify, if losses are substantial. The trustee has an obligation to serve in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries, and failing to diversify when stocks are concentrated in a single company can lead to a significant loss in value of the trust. 

- A trustee can be held liable for commingling personal finances and the trust finances, especially in situations where the trustee is a family member to the beneficiaries. A trustee can avoid the appearance of impropriety by maintaining clear and thorough accounting records of the finances of the trust, and clear documentation regarding his or her personal finances. 

Speak with an Illinois Estate Planning Lawyer Today

If you have concerns that your trustee is in breach of his or her fiduciary duties, or if you are a trustee with concerns about a course of action for the trust you manage, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys today. Our firm serves the communities of Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwoods, Barrington, South Barrington, and Mount Prospect.

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.

Source: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2129&ChapterID=61

Five Advantages of Living Trusts Over Wills

Web Admin - Friday, January 03, 2014

By Jay Andrew
JAA@DGAALAW.COM / (847) 934-6000

When preparing for the disposition of their property after they pass on, many people often find themselves questioning what wills and living trusts are and which document would better suit their needs. Wills, governed by the Probate Act of 1975, are legal documents that a person prepares prior to their death, which specifies how the rest of the family should distribute their property and handle the other affairs. Living trusts, which are controlled by the Trusts and Trustees Act, are legal devices that allow a person of the creator’s choosing, the trustee, to handle the disposition of their property. While everyone’s situation comes with unique considerations, living trusts may provide various advantages over wills. Five of the most important advantages include:

1. Living trusts can help your family avoid dealing with long, draw-out probate proceedings. Courts use probate proceedings to tie up a person’s loose ends, distribute their property, and generally enact their will. If you use a living trust, rather than moving through the court system, the trustee can distribute the property in accordance with the trust. This means that your family will not need to bring themselves to the courthouse and deal with the fees and hassle that come along with probate proceedings.

2. Living trusts also provide more privacy than wills do. While both wills and living trusts remain private throughout your life, the probate court will look at the will after you pass on, even if there are no formal probate proceedings. That means that the will becomes a matter of public record. On the other hand, your relatives will not need to file the trust with the court, so it can stay between them.

3. Living trusts also stand a better chance of surviving a legal challenge after your death, making it more likely that your final plans will be enacted to your specifications. The extra strength from a living trust comes from your ability to keep an active eye on it during your life. Because you would stay involved with the trust’s management during your life, relatives would find it harder to prove that you were not of sound mind when making the plan.

4. Living trusts make leaving property to minor children simpler too. Because minors cannot own most property, the trustee whom you choose can manage it for them, whereas a court appointee would likely handle the management if you chose to pass the property on with a will.

5. Living trusts have further benefits in the event that you become incapacitated while alive. Ordinarily, such circumstances would require relatives to petition the court for control of your affairs, and then the court would appoint a person to manage them. With a living trust, you can appoint a successor trustee to take over management in the event that you become incapacitated.

Decisions about testamentary dispositions can be complicated and involve multiple areas of law. If you are in the process of making such decisions, contact a Palatine estate planning lawyer today. We serve many areas in the northwest suburbs including Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake and Barrington.

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