Trustees play a crucial role in managing and administering trusts. One common question is whether trustees are entitled to compensation for their services. In this blog post, we will delve into trustee compensation, exploring the legal provisions, calculation methods, and considerations involved in determining fair compensation for trustees.

Key Concepts:

To summarize the key concepts regarding trustee compensation:

  1. Trustees are generally entitled to reasonable compensation for their services.
  2. Trust instruments can specify how trustee compensation is to be calculated or even deny compensation altogether.
  3. Without specific provisions in the trust instrument, trustees are entitled to reasonable compensation.
  4. Probate courts have the authority to modify trustee compensation if deemed necessary.

Methods of Calculating Trustee Compensation:

Two standard methods for calculating trustee compensation are the hourly rate and the percentage-based approach.

Hourly Rate:

While an hourly rate seems logical at first glance, being a trustee involves a considerable amount of work that extends beyond simple bookkeeping tasks. Trustees are responsible for communicating with beneficiaries, managing assets, selling property, handling financial matters, etc. Given the complexity and time commitment involved, it is uncommon for trustees to charge an hourly rate.

Percentage-Based Compensation:

Most trustees opt for a percentage-based compensation structure. This method involves calculating a percentage of the assets under management, typically one to two percent. The percentage may vary depending on the complexity and difficulty of the trust administration. This approach is straightforward to calculate, document in accounting, and explain to beneficiaries, as trustees must provide an account of their compensation.

Professional Trustees and Fee Structures:

Professional trustees or fiduciaries often employ a tiered percentage-based fee structure. This structure entails lower percentages for larger estates, similar to how income taxes are structured. Sophisticated professional trustees may have minimum asset value requirements before accepting the role of trustee. Their fees may also be higher due to their expertise and the level of service they provide.

Additional Considerations:

  1. Trustees are entitled to reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred during trust administration, such as travel expenses, shipping fees, or necessary bills.
  2. Flat fees for trustee compensation are rare since determining a fair and reasonable amount can be subjective and may lead to conflicts with beneficiaries.
  3. Trustees can choose to waive compensation, especially when they are also beneficiaries of the trust. In such cases, receiving compensation may result in increased personal tax liability, reducing their inheritance.

Trustees perform essential work in managing and administering trusts, and they are legally entitled to compensation for their services. Whether trustees are compensated based on an hourly rate or a percentage of the assets under management, the calculation methods should be fair, transparent, and subject to accountability. It is crucial for beneficiaries, trustees, and those selecting trustees to understand the legal provisions and considerations surrounding trustee compensation to avoid conflicts and ensure a smooth trust administration process.

In which states are trustees entitled to compensation by default?

  1. Trustees are typically entitled to compensation in most states by default unless the trust instrument explicitly states otherwise. However, specific provisions and guidelines may vary across jurisdictions.

What factors determine whether trustees are entitled to compensation in different jurisdictions?

  1. The determination of trustee compensation in different jurisdictions depends on state laws, which may consider factors such as the trust instrument provisions, the complexity of the trust administration, the number of assets under management, and the reasonableness of the compensation.

Are there any states that explicitly prohibit trustees from receiving compensation?

  1. While it is uncommon, there may be some states that explicitly prohibit trustees from receiving compensation. However, most states allow for trustee compensation unless otherwise specified in the trust instrument.

How do state laws regarding trustee compensation differ across the United States?

  1. State laws regarding trustee compensation can vary significantly across the United States. Some states may have specific statutes outlining the calculation methods and limitations, while others may rely on common law principles or provide broader discretion to the court.

Do state laws specify any guidelines or limitations on the compensation trustees can receive?

  1. Many states have guidelines or limitations on how much compensation trustees can receive. These guidelines may consider factors such as the size of the trust, the services rendered, prevailing market rates, and reasonableness.

Are there any states that require trustee compensation to be reasonable and commensurate with the services provided?

  1. Yes, most states require trustee compensation to be reasonable and commensurate with the services provided. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the trust and its beneficiaries, which includes ensuring that their compensation is fair and justifiable.

Do state laws allow for modification of trustee compensation by a court if deemed necessary?

  1. Yes, in many jurisdictions, probate courts have the authority to modify trustee compensation if it is deemed unreasonable or inappropriate based on the circumstances. This allows for a fair resolution in cases where trustee compensation requires adjustment.

Are there any states that provide specific guidelines for calculating trustee compensation?

  1. Some states provide specific guidelines for calculating trustee compensation, while others may offer more general principles. It is important to consult specific state laws or seek legal advice for accurate information regarding trustee compensation calculations.

Are there differences in trustee compensation laws between common law and community property states?

  1. Trustee compensation laws can differ between common law and community property states. However, the specific variations would depend on the laws of each individual state within these categories.

How do state laws address trustee reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses?

  1. State laws generally allow trustees to be reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred during trust administration. These expenses may include travel costs, shipping fees, legal fees, and other necessary expenditures directly related to the trust’s management. Reimbursement provisions may vary across jurisdictions, so it is advisable to review the specific state laws for accurate information.

Please note: This website provides information, content, and materials that are not intended to provide legal advice but rather serve as a general resource for information. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Please schedule a consultation to talk with an estate attorney for answers to your specific legal questions and legal advice for your specific case.