It is important to understand that a trustee is a fiduciary and is held to a higher standard of duty. It is imperative as a beneficiary of a trust that you read every word of the trust and understand the circumstances under which the trustee is to distribute money to you as the beneficiary.
If you do not understand the agreement, seek legal counsel so that you’re sure you understand the terms under which the trustee should/may/can/must distribute money to the beneficiary. As you can see from all the different words that I used, every trustee has different discretions depending on the four corners of the trust document. There is no one size fits all, so it is imperative that you read and understand the terms of the document and what discretion the trustee has.
Once you understand the document if you still feel as though you’re not getting transparency from the trustee you can always request accounting. If the trustee does not comply with the request for the accounting of the trust you can then file an action in the Orphans’ Court in your local county to force the trustee to provide you a copy of the accounting to understand what money has been distributed from the trust and under what circumstances. If you have reviewed the accounting and are still not satisfied that the trustee is fulfilling in his or her fiduciary duty, I would look to the trust document to determine if there is a trust protector.
Many trusts nowadays will incorporate in them a trust protector who is often another law firm or professional fiduciary who can assist the beneficiaries. It would also be imperative to read every word of this section to understand what the trust protector can and can’t do and also seek counsel if you still do not understand the specific terms of the documents.
Because there are so many different styles and types of trusts it is virtually impossible to provide a specific direction to beneficiaries who feel that the trustee is not acting in their best interest, but the steps provided herein provide a starting point for the beneficiaries to feel that they have a voice and a say. In certain circumstances the trustee may have sole and absolute discretion to do whatever he or she wishes, but even in those circumstances understanding what monies have been paid out and your rights under the document is very important.
Please seek assistance from an attorney who specializes in trust and understands the “in’s and out’s” of trust documents in order to be able to provide advice on what you can and can’t do within the terms of the trust.
If you would like to learn more about trusts and how they can benefit your family, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.