If an attorney is serving as a trustee, can she receive compensation?

Under the terms of some California trusts, an attorney may be appointed a successor trustee after the settlor passes away or becomes incapacitated. This attorney might also be serving as the attorney for the trust administration in some circumstances. Understandably, this could create concern that the attorney-trustee is receiving an excessive amount of compensation for her services. If you are a beneficiary or a co-trustee of a trust with an attorney-trustee, consider the following guidelines that apply to the trustee’s right to receive compensation:

  • The attorney-trustee can only receive compensation in one capacity, whether that is as the trustee or as the attorney. He cannot receive compensation for both unless approval is first obtained from the probate court.
  • To receive court approval, the attorney-trustee must provide notice to all interested parties.
  • Law partners of the attorney-trustee are similarly not entitled to receive compensation for legal services as a trust administrator without prior court approval.
  • Even if a trust beneficiary is willing to waive the above requirements, the attorney-trustee must still abide by these rules.

Naming a successor trustee who is also an attorney may be a wise choice in many circumstances. The trustee will likely have more knowledge and experience with the administration of a California trust than a loved one or friend of the settlor. To learn more about administering a trust in California and understanding the guidelines surrounding trustee compensation, contact our office of experienced Anaheim trust attorneys today. Call us at (714) 459-5481 for a consultation.

James F. Roberts
Founder and owner of the Law Office of James F. Roberts and Associates, a premiere estate planning law firm