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Home Q&A Forum Can a trustee be held personally liable for the debts of a trust?




Asked on Jul 6, 2024

Can a trustee be held personally liable for the debts of a trust?

Can a trustee be held personally liable for the debts of a trust? I recently became the trustee of my late father's trust, which includes significant financial assets. However, the trust also has outstanding debts that exceed its assets, and I am concerned about my personal liability in case the creditors come after me for repayment. I want to understand my legal obligations and potential risks as a trustee in this situation.

1 Attorney answer




Answered 7 days ago

Merry A.

ContractsCounsel verified

Business Lawyer
Licensed in Washington
Free Consultation

As long as you do everything "by the book" (good record-keeping, etc) you have no personal liability in regards to debt/obligations of your father's estate, including the trust. Here's the gist for Washington State: You're protected from personal liability as long as you're acting as the trustee and not doing anything outside the scope of your authority or behaving negligently. You need to manage the trust's assets and debts according to the trust document and the law. If you mess up here, there could be some risk of liability. Always make it clear that you're acting as the trustee and not in a personal capacity. This helps keep the lines clear, so creditors and others know you're acting on behalf of the trust. If you mismanage the trust or engage in any kind of misconduct, you could be held personally liable for any losses that result. If the trust's debts are greater than its assets, you'll need to prioritize paying off those debts before distributing anything to the beneficiaries. You might also need to: Pay Debts: Use the trust’s assets to settle any outstanding debts. Talk to Creditors: Let the creditors know about the trust's financial situation and try to work out payment plans or settlements if necessary. If you're worried about personal liability or need help managing the trust's debts, it might be a good idea to talk to an attorney who specializes in trust and estate law. They can give you specific advice and help make sure you're doing everything by the book. Most trusts list a first, second, and third choice of trustee. If that's the situation with your father's trust, you can ask to work with the other people listed, or ask them to take responsibility instead of you. However, your father named you for a reason, as his first choice. After I answer certain Contracts Counsel questions, I'm sometimes asked to bid on a project. Please be aware that my schedule does not allow me to take on your matter, should you need help. One way to find attorneys in this field, in addition to Contracts Counsel, is through this organization: Best wishes, Merry

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