Taking on the role of being a trustee to an instrument or account created by a family member, friend or colleague in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles or another California city is a large responsibility, and certainly one that should not be taken lightly. You may do well to consider the matter for a time before actually accepting the role. While some (including even possibly the settlor) may question your apprehension in immediately assuming the responsibility, your prudence may ultimately help ensure that the trust is handled properly. The question, however, is whether or not the law automatically assigns you this responsibility.
The guidelines and requirements for assuming the role of a trustee can be found in Section 15600 of the California Trust Code. In this section, it states that in order to accept a trust (and, by extension, the job of trustee), you must either sign a written acceptance of the responsibility or the trust instrument itself. Even if, however, you do not sign anything designating yourself as the trustee, it is assumed that you have accepted such a role if you knowingly begin to exercise the powers assigned to the trustee in the trust instrument.
What about in situations where no trustee has been named, yet action is required in order to preserve the trust property? The law does allow you to do what is necessary to retain ownership and interests in all of a trust’s assets without assuming the role of trustee. If you must exercise these powers yet have no intention of becoming the trustee, you must deliver a written refusal of the trust to the settlor within a reasonable amount of time after having done so. If the settlor has passed away or is incompetent, that written refusal can be delivered to any of the trust’s beneficiaries.