What are the duties and responsibilities of a trustee?

Last modified: September 1, 2023
Estimated reading time: 2 min

As a trustee, you have important duties and responsibilities to fulfill in the administration of a trust. While the specific duties may vary depending on the terms of the trust instrument and applicable laws, here are some general duties and responsibilities of a trustee in Malaysia:

1. Fiduciary duty

As a trustee, you have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. This means you must exercise the utmost good faith, loyalty, and care in managing the trust assets and carrying out your responsibilities.

2. Trust administration

You are responsible for the overall administration of the trust, which includes safeguarding and managing the trust assets. This involves prudent investment decisions, record-keeping, accounting, and financial reporting.

3. Compliance with trust terms

You must adhere to the terms and provisions of the trust as outlined in the trust instrument. This includes understanding and implementing the intentions of the settlor (the person who created the trust) in relation to asset distribution, beneficiary rights, and any specific instructions or conditions specified in the trust.

4. Duty of impartiality

It is essential to treat all beneficiaries impartially and avoid favoritism or bias. You must make decisions that consider the best interests of all beneficiaries and ensure fair distribution of trust assets.

5. Duty of care and skill

You are expected to exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence in managing the trust. This includes making informed decisions, seeking professional advice when necessary, and acting prudently in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

6. Communication and disclosure

You have a duty to communicate with the beneficiaries, keeping them informed about the administration and progress of the trust. This includes providing regular updates, responding to inquiries, and disclosing relevant information about the trust assets and financial matters.

7. Confidentiality and privacy

You are obligated to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of the trust affairs, unless disclosure is required by law or authorized by the trust instrument.

8. Record-keeping and accounting

It is important to keep accurate records of all trust transactions, including income, expenses, distributions, and investments. Proper accounting ensures transparency and accountability in the administration of the trust.

9. Prudent investment management

If the trust includes investment assets, you are responsible for managing those investments prudently. This involves considering the risk and return objectives, diversification, and the specific investment guidelines or restrictions outlined in the trust instrument.

10. Duty to act personally or delegate

Unless the trust instrument allows for delegation or co-trusteeship, you are generally expected to personally carry out the trustee duties. However, in certain circumstances and subject to legal requirements, you may delegate specific tasks to professionals or agents while retaining overall responsibility and supervision.

It is important to note that these duties and responsibilities are general in nature and may be subject to modification based on the specific terms of the trust and applicable laws in Malaysia. As a trustee, it is advisable to consult with a lawyer experienced in trust and estate matters to understand your specific obligations and seek guidance in fulfilling your duties effectively.

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