3 Investment Rules for Estate Trustees

An estate trustee is responsible for performing various duties to encourage the wellbeing of the estate in question, as well as its beneficiaries. Among those duties includes careful and thoughtful investment in order to bolster the strength of the estate. There are three main rules pertaining to this duty, and by following them diligently and accurately, an invested estate can prosper for many years to come.


Obey the Trust Deed at All Times

A trust deed normally includes an agreement or term that protects the estate by limiting the trustee’s investment authority. Sometimes this is incorporated intentionally, but even if it isn’t, trustees are required to follow the instructions written out in a testator’s investment clause. Even if they are poorly explained or overly broad, the trustee and investment advisor are responsible for remaining faithful to the testator’s wishes. If not, they are essentially breaching their contracted duties and can be held liable in a court of law.


Invest Sensibly and Consider Outcomes

To guarantee sound and prudent trust investments, a trustee must consider the economic climate, including potential effects of inflation or deflation. Additionally, they must ruminate on any tax implications or impacts on the trust’s portfolio from any investments, as well as the expected total return, required payments or liquidity, and asset values to beneficiaries (such as family business shares). Case law also enforces the need for a trustee to diversify the trust’s portfolio to an appropriate extent — even in provinces where legislation doesn’t require diversification. You need to follow a designated investment plan that assesses risks and return potentialities associated with the investment portfolio, as well. You are permitted in any Canadian province to consult with a prudent investment advisor, stemming from applicable qualifications and experience investing within the trust setting. More commonly, an advisor is pre-selected in a clause of a trust deed to ensure continuity. In any case, a written agreement between you and the advisor is required in addition to the investment plan.


Be Fair to Beneficiaries (Even-Hand Rule)

On many occasions, trusts include a clause directing the estate trustee to favour or bypass an income beneficiary or a capital beneficiary. This request must be adhered to if included, but if not, you as the trustee need to consider the best interests of all beneficiaries prior to and during the investment process. Not doing so or investing in a beneficiary’s own business could be used against you in a court of law as a violation of the even-hand rule.

A trustee is quite literally trusted with the wellbeing of an estate and its applicable beneficiaries from a financial standpoint. To legally and diligently adhere to the testator’s wishes and follow specific guidelines, invest prudently, and follow the even-hand rule will enable for a smooth and efficient process. To learn more about selecting a trustee for your estate or ensuring your legacy is carried out according to your wishes, schedule a consultation with The Beacon Group of Assante Financial Management Ltd.