DiMaggio Betta Group March 11, 2024

Is Your Trust In Order?

A Trustee’s Job, No Easy Task

Is being appointed a Trustee, a gift or a burden?

Over the past week I’ve spoken to three clients who are the trustee’s of their family estates. Whether it’s a wealthy estate, a small estate, or one with a few thousand dollars in cash and a single home, the job of a trustee can be quite intimidating. Holding the title of trustee is not as if you are bestowed a King or Queen. It’s a major responsibility. No one truly understands this until they’ve been through it themselves, as a trustee, beneficiary or spouse.

When you are young and naive and haven’t had such an experience you may think, “I want to be the trustee when the time comes.” To that, I say, do your research ahead of time. Do you really want that responsibility? Do you have the time, desire and/or capacity? Co-Trustees is another option, with its own set of issues; and you can have up to four trustees. But more often than not, it’s a sole person who holds the title of trustee. What are some common challenges faced by trustees in estate management? Trustee’s have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. This includes managing the real estate assets prudently and responsibly.

As a Realtor it is important to know and understand what your client is going through. The job often falls on the shoulders of a single trustee following the death of a parent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or even a close friend. More often than not it’s an extremely sorrowful and emotional time. Then add that metaphorical stack of bricks on top the shoulders of the newly appointed trustee and observe the stress and emotions overflow.

As a Realtor, understanding and empathizing with clients who have recently become trustees due to the passing of a loved one is crucial. The responsibility of a trustee can indeed add an additional layer of stress during an already challenging and emotional time.

Here are a few reasons why being a Trustee can be particularly overwhelming:

1. Emotional Burden: The loss of a parent, sibling, relative, or close friend is a deeply emotional experience. As a trustee, individuals may find themselves not only grieving but also having to navigate the practical and legal aspects of managing the deceased person’s real estate assets. This emotional burden can make decision-making and handling financial matters even more challenging.

2. Limited Experience and Knowledge: Many individuals who become trustees may not have prior experience or knowledge in managing real estate assets or fulfilling fiduciary duties. The sudden responsibility of overseeing and making decisions about properties can be overwhelming, especially if they lack familiarity with real estate transactions, property management, or legal obligations.

3. Potential Conflicts among Beneficiaries: Trustees may encounter conflicts among the beneficiaries regarding the distribution, sale, or management of the real estate assets. These disagreements can further intensify the stress and emotions associated with the trustee’s role. Navigating these conflicts and finding a balance between the interests of the beneficiaries can be daunting and emotionally draining.

4. Legal and Financial Complexity: Managing real estate assets involves various legal and financial complexities, such as understanding local laws, tax implications, insurance requirements, and property maintenance. Trustees may feel overwhelmed by the legal and financial responsibilities, especially if they do not have a background in these areas or if the estate plan is particularly complex.

The importance of consulting with a professional attorney and an experienced Realtor:

It is important for Realtors to approach clients in this situation with empathy, patience, and a willingness to provide guidance and support. Recommending and connecting clients with professionals such as estate planning attorneys, financial advisors, or property management experts can help alleviate some of the stress and provide the necessary expertise to navigate the trustee’s responsibilities effectively. It is wise to consult with a legal professional or estate planning attorney to understand the specific duties and obligations of trustees in your situation, as they can provide personalized guidance based on the relevant laws and documents.

If you have any real estate questions, or would like to be referred to a Trust Attorney or qualified California Real Estate Attorney, please reach out. If you are contemplating a home sale, we welcome the opportunity to be of service while helping you through, what can be, a challenging time.

Adam and I have been serving our clients and colleagues for 35 years, spanning the Bay Bridge, from San Francisco to Piedmont, where we raised our family and where Debbi grew up and her parents still reside. Aside from practicing real estate and doing what we love so much, which is providing each client with the best possible real estate experience, Adam is also the Managing Broker of the Piedmont and Montclair offices, Corcoran Board Member, and I am the Marketing Director and Business Coach for the 80 agents. And, in February, I launched a weekly podcast, “Mastering The Art of Real Estate,” where I interview Realtors from around the globe, hearing their stories, learning about their neighborhoods, cities and towns, and how they run a successful business while remaining upbeat, passionate, organized and energetic.

Is Your Trust In Order?

Allow Us to Assist You or Put You In Touch With A Qualified Attorney.

Debbi and Adam, and The DiMaggio Betta Group, welcome your call. 510.414.6777. 510.414.1250. Debbi.DiMaggio@corcoranicon.com