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A trust is a legal agreement in which a specialist manages the assets of a trust beneficiary, or trustee. A trust accountant records trust transactions and prepares financial statements that comply with trust agreements, regulatory guidelines, industry practices and accounting principles. This specialist typically has a bachelor's degree or higher level of education in accounting, finance, investments or tax law and may be a certified public accountant (CPA).
A trust accountant records a trust's cash receipts and payments and periodically prepares "fair" and complete financial statements that comply with generally accepted accounting principles, trust laws, regulatory requirements and industry practices. ("Fair" means correct and objective in accounting terminology.) Complete trust records include four financial statements: a statement of financial position—or balance sheet; a statement of profit and loss; a statement of cash flows; and a statement of trustee's equity. A trust finance specialist also ensures that financial recording processes of a trust are adequate and "effective"—that is, functional.
A trust accountant's compensation level depends on trust size, the number of beneficiaries, academic training, experience and industry. The median annual wage of trust accounting clerks was $32,510 in 2008, with the top 10 percent earning more than $49,260 and the bottom 10 percent earning less than $20,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A trust accountant who has a professional certification, such as a CPA or a chartered financial analyst, earns more than average professionals. The annual median wage of these professionals was $59,430 in 2008, with the bottom 10 percent earning less than $36,720 and the top 10 percent earning more than $102,380, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
A trust accountant may be a CPA who works for a public accounting firm or who provides accounting or auditing services to a trust bank or law firm. A trust accountant also may work in a governmental agency, such as the Federal Reserve or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This specialist also could advise a trustee on tax-saving strategies or prepare trust financial statements that comply with accounting rules.
A trust accountant typically has a standard 40-hour work week, but periodically may work longer hours to help with trust monthly close procedures and regulatory filings, such as SEC and Internal Revenue Service filings.
A trust accountant usually lives in a city or in the suburbs but periodically may travel to meet with trustees. For example, a New Jersey-based trustee may visit a trust beneficiary in Colorado Springs, Colo., to confirm large cash payments exceeding $1 million during a quarter.