As Rose’s trustee, you might pay bills, oversee bank accounts and pay for things she needs. You might also make investments, pay taxes, collect rent or unpaid debts, get insurance if needed, cancel any unneeded insurance, and do other things written in the trust or required by Texas law.
You have a duty to manage the money and property in the trust very carefully. Use good judgment and common sense. As a fiduciary, you must be even more careful with the trust’s money than you might be with your own!
Follow these guidelines to help you make careful decisions:
- List the trust’s money, property, and debts. You need to know what Rose’s trust owns and owes to make careful decisions. Your list might include:
- checking and savings accounts;
- pension, retirement, annuity, rental, public benefit, or other income;
- real estate;
- cars and other vehicles;
- insurance policies;
- stocks and bonds;
- jewelry, furniture, and any other items of value; and
- unpaid credit card bills and other outstanding loans.
The trust agreement may require you to share the list with a beneficiary or with someone else. Also, Texas law states that beneficiaries can ask you once per year to provide an accounting. If you are asked to provide an accounting, you may want to talk to a lawyer to see what information you need to provide.
- Protect the trust’s property. Keep the trust’s money and property safe. You may need to put valuable items in safe deposit boxes, change locks on property, and make sure Rose’s home or other property is insured. Make sure bank accounts earn interest if possible and have low or no fees. Review bank and other financial statements promptly. If the trust has real estate, keep it in good condition.
- Invest carefully. You have a responsibility to make prudent financial decisions. Talk to a financial professional or lawyer about safe and legal ways to invest the trust’s assets. You can delegate investment decisions to professionals, but you must be very careful when choosing them. The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) provides tips on choosing a financial professional in this Investor Bulletin. Discuss your choices and goals for investing based on Rose’s needs and values.
- Pay bills and taxes on time. Make sure bills are sent to you. Review bills and bank statements promptly.
- Buy insurance if necessary and cancel any insurance policies that Rose does not need.
- Collect debts. Find out if anyone owes the trust money, and try to collect it.
- Post bond. Read the trust agreement to find out whether you are exempt from the requirement to post a bond as trustee. In Texas, a trustee is required to post bond unless the trust instrument says otherwise. A bond protects the trust’s assets from losses caused by an unethical or dishonest trustee.
Can Rose get any benefits?
Find out if Rose is eligible for any financial or healthcare benefits from an employer or the government. For instance, you could help Rose apply for other private benefits such as employer pensions or disability, or public benefits such as Medicaid, housing assistance, or food stamps (now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “SNAP”). Use the National Council on Aging benefits check-up at BenefitsCheckUp.org.
The Area Agency on Aging where Rose lives can help you find information. Find the local Area Agency on Aging through the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (“DADS”) at www.dads.state.tx.us/contact/aaa.cfm.
Medicaid is complicated.
Get legal advice and be very careful about decisions that may affect Rose’s eligibility for Medicaid, especially before you sell Rose’s home or sign anything that affects Rose’s ownership of her home. The Medicaid program provides medical assistance and long-term care to low-income people. For more information, visit hhsc.state.tx.us/medicaid. To apply for Medicaid visit: yourtexasbenefits.com.