trustee trust·ee /trəˈstē/ noun — 1: a natural or legal person to whom property is legally committed to be administered for the benefit of a beneficiary (such as a person or a charitable organization) — Merriam Webster dictionary
The above is the official definition of “trustee,” but what does this mean in practice? Below are the major duties and responsibilities we undertake as trustee at the Laird Norton Wetherby Trust Company (founded in 1967) and the LNW Trust Company of South Dakota (founded in 2023).
- Legal responsibility for trust assets. As trustee, we are legally authorized to conduct the transactions and procedures required to manage and oversee assets in the trust. In all the work we do as trustee, we are bound by the fiduciary standard, meaning we are legally obligated to act in the best interest of the trust beneficiaries, the highest standard of care.
- Investment and asset management. If we are designated as the asset manager, as well as the trustee, we manage the assets within the trust, guided by an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) developed explicitly for the trust. The IPS reflects a specific level of targeted investment risk and return based on the intended longevity of the trust, the desired distribution levels, and other purposes of the trust to the extent they impact how trust assets are invested. Over time, a trust can contain not just financial assets, but also real estate, collectibles and shares of a business or partnership interests, some of which could be located in different states or even outside the U.S. We are able to manage a wide variety of asset types, including the associated tax reporting.
- Trust administration. As custodian of trust assets, we collect income, oversee expenses, conduct principal and income accounting, tax reporting and prepare all trust-related regulatory documents. Periodically, our trust operations are examined by the regulatory agencies in the states in which our two trust companies are chartered.
- Support and advising of beneficiaries (as needed). We work closely with each beneficiary of a trust to help them make informed decisions about the use of trust distributions in context of their needs and aspirations. Our Trust Advisory Committee (TAC) meets regularly to review and analyze non-ordinary requests and to make recommendations to the beneficiaries. The TAC consists of senior members of our leadership and client service teams.
- Legacy and estate planning. We strategize with client families and their outside advisors about how the trust can be part of an integrated estate planning strategy. Our in-house experts on estate planning advise on how other types of trusts and strategies can be used alongside any existing trust(s) to optimize control, asset protection, privacy, tax efficiency and the creation of a legacy that can last for many generations.
- Facilitation of transfers. We can advise on optimal ways to transfer assets to the trust (and when applicable, from the trust) in order to maximize tax-efficiency and expediency, while supporting the people and causes the trust was intended to benefit.
- Client access and reporting. Through our firm’s client portal, we provide clients with online access to trust financials at all times, including investment performance, distributions, tax documents, asset allocation reports and more.
Trusts are a powerful estate planning tool. Our trust services team is here to help each client make optimal use of trusts, and most importantly, carry forth their wishes for the people and organizations they love as expressed through the trust.