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My Trustee is Out of Control. What Do I Do?

Your mom, the surviving parent, passes away, and one of your siblings or another relative becomes the successor trustee under mom and dad’s trust. Then, several months go by, and you, a beneficiary of your parents’ trust, get absolutely no notices, and you suspect that something is wrong. Moreover, you have requested information from the successor trustee, and the successor trustee has either refused to give you any information or says that he will send you some information, but then never does. You suspect that either the successor trustee is unable to get the job done or something worse may be going on –the successor trustee is taking money from mom and dad’s estate. Clearly, the trustee is out of control. What can you do?

What is the Trustee Required To Do?

After mom dies in this situation, the successor trustee has a duty to keep the beneficiaries of the trust reasonably informed about the administration of the trust. Specifically, the trustee has the following duties;

  1. On the request of a beneficiary, the trustee is required to promptly furnish to the beneficiary a copy of the portions of the trust document that are necessary to describe such beneficiary’s interest.
  2. Within 60 days after accepting the trusteeship, the trustee is required to notify the qualified beneficiaries (generally speaking, the primary beneficiaries of the trust plus anyone who would take if any of the primary beneficiaries predecease the creators of the trust) of such acceptance, and the trustee’s name, address, and telephone number.
  3. After the trust becomes irrevocable (perhaps because both mom and dad have passed away), within 60 days, the trustee is required to notify the qualified beneficiaries of the trust’s existence, the identity of the creators of the trust, and the trustee’s name, address, and telephone number. In addition, in the same 60-day period, the trustee is required to inform the qualified beneficiaries of their right to request a copy of relevant portions of the trust and of the right to obtain a copy of the trustee’s report as set forth below.
  4. A trustee shall send to the distributees or permissible distributees (i.e., those who take or could take under the trust) and to other beneficiaries who request it, at least annually and at the termination of the trust, a report of the trust property, liabilities, receipts, and disbursements, including the source and amount of the trustee’s compensation, a listing of the trust assets, and their respective market values.

What Can a Beneficiary Do If The Trustee Has Not Provided This Information?

When beneficiaries come to me and tell me that they have not received any of this information from the successor trustee, I recommend immediately sending the trustee a letter requesting a copy of the will and the trust, information about the trustee, and a report detailing the assets and liabilities of the trust, as set forth in the list above. Most of the time, the successor trustee cooperates in these situations, but occasionally they do not. If a trustee cooperates, then it is just a matter of monitoring the trustee’s activities until the final distribution occurs. However, when the trustee does not cooperate in providing this information, I recommend filing a petition with the court to force the trustee to provide the required information within a certain amount of time. In the petition, I also ask the court to consider removing the trustee, or for other sanctions, if the trustee fails to comply with the statutory requirements.

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John Even

Our firm has helped hundreds of families just like yours handle a wide variety of business planning, estate planning, probate, and elder law issues. When families or business owners are not getting along, we can also handle any disputes and litigation related to their businesses, wills, trusts, guardianships, or conservatorships. Please give me a call, so that I can help you work through these difficult issues with confidence.

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