As trustee, what are my duties if Uncle Joe has a stroke?

If your Uncle Joe named you as trustee in his revocable trust, he obviously had faith in your ability to act on his behalf if he became incapacitated. Your first priority is to follow the instructions in the trust document. Remember that you cannot mix trust assets. Always keep those belonging to the trust separate from your own.

Carefully review the trust instructions if a health care emergency such as a stroke arises. The trust may state that a physician must certify that the grantor, Uncle Joe, is mentally or physically unable to manage his financial affairs, and this is when you are going to step forward.

Ensure there is quality health care

Obviously, your uncle was thinking ahead when he set up a revocable trust, and now it is your job to make sure he is receiving good care. Provide doctors with the documents they need, such as your uncle’s living will and medical power of attorney. Contact the person who is to take charge of making health care decisions. Help notify relatives, friends and coworkers of Uncle Joe’s medical issues. The trust instructions may require that a physician prepare a written statement about the incapacity, and you can present this document to banks and other pertinent parties so you can transact business on behalf of your uncle.

Managing finances and insurance

You will need to become familiar with the benefits and limitations of your uncle’s health care insurance to be sure certain procedures or facilities are covered. You will also have to familiarize yourself with Uncle Joe’s finances: the source and amount of his income, his investments and what bills are due. If your uncle is still working, you should file for disability benefits through his employer. There may be many aspects to the financial picture, so you may want to set up files and prepare a budget.

Engaging experts

When you begin your duties as a trustee for someone who is incapacitated, the responsibilities may seem overwhelming at first. Remember that you can engage the services of professionals, such as an accountant, a banker, a financial advisor and the attorney who helped establish the revocable trust. While you hope your uncle will remain hale and hearty, reach out for help if the unexpected should happen.