When you accept an appointment as a trustee of a trust, you are assuming a fiduciary responsibility toward both the trust’s assets and its beneficiaries. Trustees must fulfill certain requirements under both the terms of the trust and Washington law.
Washington law imposes a number of fiduciary duties on trustees, some of which are rooted in our state’s common law (case law). Other duties are codified in statutes. The trustee’s duty of loyalty, which requires that a trustee administer a trust solely in the interests of the beneficiaries, is paramount to a trustee. A trustee also has a duty of impartiality (to treat beneficiaries with impartiality unless specified otherwise in the trust); a duty to manage investments as a prudent investor; a duty to use prudence in delegating duties; and a duty to keep and furnish records to beneficiaries, as required by law and by the terms of the Trust.
A trustee must keep beneficiaries “reasonably informed” about the trust’s administration and “promptly respond” to a beneficiary’s requests for information regarding the trust or its administration. RCW 11.98.072. The Washington Trust Act requires a trustee to provide notice to a trust’s “qualified beneficiaries” within sixty (60) days after accepting an appointment to the position of Trustee. This notice must include: (a) the existence of the trust; (b) the identity of the trustor; (c) the Trustee’s contact information; and (d) information that is reasonably necessary to enable the beneficiary to protect his or her interest. RCW 11.98.072(2). The Trust itself may require that additional items must be included in the trustee’s notice to the beneficiaries, or it may waive the notice requirement altogether. In addition, the notice requirement may be waived under certain circumstances set forth at RCW 11.98.072(3).
Washington statutory provisions governing trust administration are both robust and complex. In addition, many statutory trust administration requirements may be changed by the terms of a trust itself, either by imposing additional duties on the trustee or by waiving certain statutory duties. Trustees generally benefit from consulting with an attorney to receive advice and assistance in fulfilling their duties as required.
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