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Publication Outlines Trustee Responsibilities

Montana State University Extension has released a publication titled, “Managing Someone Else’s Money: Help for Trustees under a Revocable Trust in Montana” outlining trustee responsibilities under a revocable trust.

“This guide will help readers understand what can and cannot be done in the role of a trustee,” said Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist. “The content is for family and friends who have been asked to serve as a trustee, not for professionals or organizations. The information is not legal advice.”

In Montana, the term for a person who sets up a trust is settlor. In some other states, the word “trustor” or “grantor” is used. The person who makes decisions about the money or property in the trust is the trustee. A person who receives money or property from the trust is known as a beneficiary.

“The role of a trustee carries legal responsibilities,” said E. Edwin Eck, dean emeritus of the Alexander Blewett School of Law at the University of Montana, who added four basic duties that trustees of a revocable trust should keep in mind. “Act only in the best interest of the beneficiary — while the settlor of a revocable trust is alive, they are the beneficiary. Manage the money and property in the trust very carefully. Keep trust property separate from property owned by the trustee personally. Keep good records.”

The authority of a trustee is limited to what the trust document and Montana law allow. There may be duties required by Montana law even if they are not listed in the trust document. Trustees should talk to an attorney if there is anything written in the trust document that they don’t understand, commented Goetting.

MSU Extension sends appreciation to the Business, Estates, Tax, Trusts, and Real Property Section of the State Bar of Montana for funding this publication. “Managing Someone Else’s Money: Help for Trustees under a Revocable Trust in Montana,” can be found online at the MSU Extension store.

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