HANDLING ABSENT OR UNCOMMUNICATIVE TRUSTEES
For many California residents, trusts can be an optimal method to achieve their estate planning goals while preserving privacy, as trusts transfer property outside the probate system. Settlors can develop a range of innovative methods to pass wealth to their beneficiaries. However, when creating a trust, it can be important to select the right fiduciary. The trustee, who manages the assets on behalf of the beneficiary, should be someone responsible, trustworthy and communicative.
When the trustee fails to communicate with the beneficiary or provide requested information about disbursements, it can quickly lead to serious conflict and suspicion. Many people select family members to serve as trustees when creating trusts, and complex family relationships can add another problematic element to the process. Trustees are generally required to inform the beneficiary of the trust and provide a copy in most cases. By obtaining a copy of the trust document, beneficiaries can better understand what they have a right to expect in terms of disbursements and communication with the trustee.
If beneficiaries find out that they are not receiving planned disbursements or that the trustee is otherwise unresponsive, they can work to set up an in-person meeting to discuss the issue. In many cases, there could be a misunderstanding or even a simple mistake.
In some cases, however, there could be more serious cause for concern. In such an event, beneficiaries can contact an experienced trust and estates attorney for advice and guidance. A lawyer can review the trust, provide an informed opinion and issue a letter to the trustee requesting action. A resolution will hopefull be reached in this manner without having to resort to litigation.