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Hi, this is Stewart Albertson with Albertson & Davidson. I want to talk to you about trustee’s fees. It’s an issue that comes up quite often and beneficiaries are concerned and want to know how much should a trustee be paid, when should they be paid, should they be paid at all? And those are all very good questions.
The first question has to be should a trustee be paid? If a trustee’s not following the terms of the trust, if the trustee refuses to communicate with you, if the trustee uses the trust assets as if they’re their own assets and not your assets that they’re taking care of, if the trustee refuses to make distributions to you. Well, maybe we have a trustee that doesn’t deserve much of a trustee’s fee. Maybe not any trustee’s fee. So that’s the first question.
Second question. Let’s say that we do have a trustee that’s deserving of being paid. Are they a family member or is it a bank, a private fiduciary we call these, a professional fiduciary. And there’s a little distinction there. The private professional fiduciaries are going to get a little bit more than a family member whose being a trustee. So if it’s a family member whose a trustee, generally you’re looking at anywhere between $30 and hour and $80 an hour, just depending on what county you’re in, the complexity of the trust, what is the background of the trustee. If the trustee is a certified public accountant and they’re doing a bunch of accounting functions for the trust, the court may grant them a little bit more for fees.
But what we do see that’s wrong in our opinion is a family member who’s a trustee paying themselves as if they’re a private fiduciary, a private professional fiduciary. Private professional fiduciaries generally take about 1% of the trust estate per year for their trustee’s fees. And most courts will approve that request by that professional trustee. But that doesn’t mean your family member who’s a trustee also gets to take 1% of the trust estate.
And we see, many times, family members who are trustees who are nonprofessionals, trying to take 1% in trustee’s fees. That is inappropriate. We think that most probate courts are going to require the trustee, in that case, to take an hourly fee somewhere between $30 an hour and $80 an hour; maybe $100 an hour if you really find somebody’s that’s qualified and they’re going to have to line item and keep a journal and keep track of all the hours that they’ve worked on the trust and in what capacity they were working in the trust. Were they working for your benefit as a trust beneficiary, or were they working to protect themselves from liability down the road? Those are two different analyses. One would be appropriate for trustee’s fees, the other would not.