Modern law offers a variety of ways for individuals to manage, distribute, and protect their property, whether it be for their own benefit or for that of a loved one. A well-known, and yet seemingly complex, mechanism for doing so is a Trust. But what does this mean for you, the beneficiary?
Do you think you are a beneficiary of a trust but have never been contacted by the trustee?
Have you ever had reason to believe that a trustee is mismanaging or not being truthful about trust assets?
- A trustee is required to administer the trust solely in the interests of the beneficiaries.
- A trustee must adhere to certain standards when dealing with the trust and investing trust assets.
- There is also an implied duty to keep the beneficiaries informed and to consider their opinions.
As a beneficiary, if you feel you are being left in the dark or that the trustee may be unscrupulously handling the trust property, what are your options? First, the most cost effective and perhaps the easiest option is to ask the trustee directly, discuss your concerns, and document your attempt to do so. If after your attempts to communicate with a trustee you still believe there is a problem, you may have options available in the probate court.
What are your options?
Under Connecticut law, a trust beneficiary may petition the probate court for a trust accounting. If the petition is granted the trustee must prepare and deliver to the beneficiaries an accounting displaying the assets, expenses, and financials of the trust. A beneficiary may also petition the probate court to conduct written discovery. Plainly put, if allowed by the court, this means that you as a beneficiary, may serve specific questions in writing to a trustee and request that he or she produce the requested documentation.
As a trust beneficiary, after having obtained information pertaining to the trust, what if you find that the trustee has acted nefariously or in contradiction to the trust?
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to bring an action in superior court for breach of the fiduciary’s duties explained above. Additionally, you may petition the probate court to either compel or prohibit a trustee to take or refrain from a specific course of action. Under the Rules of Probate Procedure, a court can only compel or prohibit action if the action would be a breach of fiduciary duty or abuse of discretion. Having to deal with an untrustworthy trustee, you may petition the probate court to be reimbursed from the trust funds for your expenses in connection with the petition.
These are just some options that are available to trust beneficiaries in Connecticut. The decision whether or not to pursue any of these or other options, is one that should be based on the facts of your personal situation and should be discussed with a Connecticut attorney. If you have any questions, or feel you may be at the mercy of an untrustworthy trustee, don’t wait – give us a call today.