To some, trust are exotic legal instruments that carry with them little or no meaning. As Portland trust dispute attorney, I certainly see some complex trust instruments. Some are much more simple. But the concept itself doesn't have to be complicated at all.
Broadly speaking, a trust is a relationship whereby one person holds property for the benefit of another. A trust is managed by a trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries.
In this multi-part blog post, I give a brief rundown of trusts from the perspective of an Oregon and Washington trust litigation lawyer for the benefit of those who don't have very much experience in the area.
First, what is a trustee? A trustee is basically the manager of the trust property. A trustee is obligated to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust--in accord with what are known as fiduciary duties. This generally means the trustee must act with loyalty to the trust, in line with the purpose of the trust and with the utmost faith and diligence. If the trustee violates this sacred duty, then you may find some grounds for trust litigation.
In more complex trusts, where the fiduciary duties of a trustee begin and end can be difficult to neatly define and so can determining what constitutes a breach of those duties. Due diligence, loyalty and competence are the touchstones.
A trustee is a difficult job, there can be no doubt about that, but understanding the duties of a trustee is central to developing an understanding of the operation of a trust. That is the subject of our second entry.