What kinds of distributions powers can a Trustee have?

It's important for a Trustee of a trust to understand the extent of his or her powers when it comes to distributing assets of the trust. Depending on the specific beneficiary involved, the Trustee may have more expansive or limited ability to distribute trust assets to that beneficiary.

Generally, the creator of the Trust (Trustor) has the ability to receive distributions for whatever he or she may want. However, after the Trustor dies, distributions may be limited for the purpose of maintaining creditor protection and minimizing tax ramifications for the beneficiary. Often, distributions will be limited to a so-called "ascertainable standard", i.e., limited to health, support, maintenance and education, and an independent Trustee may be used to accomplish these goals.

If a beneficiary intends to act as a Trustee of his or her own trust that was established as result of the death of the Trustor, it's important that the beneficiary's ability to distribute assets to himself is limited to health, support, maintenance or education. Using a broader standard may limit the beneficiary's ability to maintain creditor protection and avoid having the trust assets included in the beneficiary's estate for estate tax purposes.

If the Trustor wishes to ensure that he or she is provided with a certain level of care, it's advisable that specific provisions be included to that effect. Often, Trustors wish to remain in their home as long as possible despite increased costs. By including specific instructions, the Trustee may feel more comfortable in expending additional resources of the trust.