The Role of a Trustee

19th August 2020Manisha Chauhan2
What is a trustee?

A trustee is someone formally appointed to manage assets of a trust for the benefit of others (in this case the beneficiaries) and to administer the trust in accordance with the terms of the trust.

There is an ongoing obligation to act in accordance with the terms of the trust and in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Trustees also have a duty to act honestly and loyal and are required to act fairly towards the beneficiaries.

No more than 4 trustees can be appointed to act, although reserve trustees can be appointed in the Will and a minimum of two trustees are required to be appointed with trusts including land or property. The reason for this is because no overreaching conveyance can be affected without the signatures of fewer than two trustees of land. Further, a sole trustee cannot give a valid receipt for the proceeds of sale or other capital money which arises under a trust of land as that also requires at least two trustees.

For trusts that do not contain land or property there is no limit on the number of trustees, though it is still recommended to appoint between two and four in case the trust deals in land at a later date.

It is common for executors of a Will to also be appointed as the trustees although separate trustees can be appointed.


What age must a trustee be?

Under trust law, a trustee appointed must be the minimum age of 18 years old.


Choosing a Trustee

It is important to take care when choosing your trustees. You should consider whether they are able to take on the role. We have received enquiries where a parent wants to appoint their currently 18-year-old daughter to be the trustee. If the parent sadly died soon after, the question is would her daughter be able to carry out the role given the great deal of responsibility this involves?

Your trustees must be able to work well together where multiple trustees are appointed due to the requirement to make unanimous decisions, unless the trust otherwise directs. If you knowingly appoint trustees who do not see eye to eye the reality is that managing the trust and making any decision could become very difficult.

Your trustees must be of sound mind and trustworthy.

Many choose to appoint family members or trusted friends.  Others may prefer to appoint a professional trustee if the estate is particularly complex. Alternatively, the trustee can seek advice from a professional trustee as and when required.


What are the duties of a trustee?

The duties and responsibilities of a trustee include but are not limited to:-

  • To act in accordance with the terms of the trust
  • Protect the assets of the trust
  • Act with duty of care in accordance with the Trustee Act 2000
  • Keep accounts
  • Act fairly between the beneficiaries
  • Take reasonable care in making investments
  • Act unanimously (usually)
  • Insure trust assets where necessary
  • Keep records of the trust’s income and expenses
  • Complete tax returns and pay any tax due to HMRC
  • Register trust
  • Distribute income and capital to beneficiaries as appropriate
  • Notify HMRC if IHT becomes payable
  • Declare all income and CGT for payment

Where trustees are not complying with their duties or responsibilities, the beneficiaries can apply to the Court to have them removed.


Manisha Chauhan

Manisha joined the Technical Advice Team in July 2019 having previously worked as an Employment Solicitor in Warwickshire before relocating to Lincolnshire. Manisha provides advice on technical queries daily and works alongside Siobhan Smith also providing ongoing support on Sure Will Writer.


  • Steven Blofield

    24th August 2020 at 11:14 am

    The last bullet point, says trustees cannot personally benefit from the trust, which I believe is inaccurate as a trustee can also be a beneficiary


    • The Society of Will Writers

      9th April 2021 at 3:36 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your message and apologies for the delay in our response.

      You are correct in saying a trustee can be a beneficiary. However the context we meant was with regards to trustees not benefiting personally was if for example they are a trustee of a discretionary trust. In this case they could only use the money or assets in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary’s and not for themselves.

      Another example would be that they cannot buy property from the trust or receive payment for carrying out their role as trustee (if they are a lay trustee rather than a professional)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About The Society of Will Writers

The Society of Will Writers is a non-profit making self-regulatory organisation whose primary objectives are the advancement, education and ethical standards within the will writing profession.

Contact Us

The Society of Will Writers
Chancery House
Whisby Way

Tel: 01522 687888
Fax: 01522 694666
E-mail: [email protected]

SWW, logo, white, crest, seal, will, pen, quill, ink, paper, book, scales, legal, blue, gold,

Copyright by The Society of Will Writers. All rights reserved.
Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 02918900.



If you have not been registered for the SWW members Area, please contact us. Your personal data will only be used for the purposes described in our privacy policy.

Already have account?

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.