How Should a Trustee Sign?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How Should a Trustee Sign?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

A trustee is someone responsible for carrying out a trust's purpose and distributing the trust's assets to the trust's beneficiaries. An individual who sets up a trust to distribute his or her property is called a grantor. When a grantor sets up a trust, he or she will name the person they want to act as their trustee and manage the trust.

Person using a silver pen to sign documents on a clipboard

Trustee Role

As trustee, you are bound to act according to the terms of the trust document. You have a duty to manage and safeguard all trust property for the benefit of the trust, not for your own benefit. You must act in the trust's best interest, take care when managing trust property, avoid conflicts of interest, and never commingle trust money or property with your own. If you breach any of the fiduciary duties you owe to the trust, you could be removed as trustee, forced to repay any money the trust lost as a result of your actions, or even sued.

In your role as trustee, you may be required to pay bills and write checks, manage trust banking and financial accounts, enter into contracts, make investments, pay taxes, or do other official tasks on behalf of the trust. You must never maintain ownership of trust money or property in your own name. Because you are acting on behalf of the trust, and not on your own behalf, it can be confusing when it comes time to signing legal documents and checks in your capacity as trustee.

How to Sign

Generally, if you are a trustee you should identify yourself as the trustee on all trust-related paperwork by signing your name followed by the words “as trustee." As an alternative, you can also state your name followed by “as trustee and not individually." Doing so will help ensure separation between you in your individual capacity and you in your role as trustee.

If you do not distinguish yourself as a trustee and merely sign as “Jane Doe," it is possible that you may personally involve yourself in a trust transaction. For example, if you sign a contract on behalf of the trust but sign merely in your own name and not “as trustee," you may become personally liable under that contract. It is not enough that the party on the other side of the transaction knows you are acting in your capacity as trustee, you must clearly indicate your capacity when signing on behalf of the trust.

Similarly, when depositing checks on behalf of the trust, you should also endorse the check “as trustee." You should also check with the trust's financial institutions to see if they have specific requirements for your signature on trust checks. They may require you to use specific language to indicate you are acting on behalf of the trust.

Additional Designations

In addition to signing “as trustee," you can also identify the trust specifically to ensure separation between individual responsibility and trustee responsibility. For example, you can sign a document “Jane Doe, as trustee of the John Doe Trust Dated 1/1/2019."

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.