Last week I posted about beneficiaries’ rights and promised to post this week about how to protect those rights. The steps that I recommend here are the same basic steps that I recommend for anyone in a dispute, but I will tailor this discussion to trust disputes.
The first step is the cheapest and easiest solution. So, if it resolves your dispute, you are done
without any attorney involvement: approach the trustee on your own. State your concerns clearly and ask for a specific solution. Depending on your relationship with the trustee, you may want to start with an oral conversation, but if your dispute is not resolved after that conversation, I strongly recommend you put your request in writing: either in a letter or in an email. Send the letter or email to the trustee, but KEEP A PRINTED COPY for yourself, preferably with the date and time sent.
If you are convinced that you cannot resolve your dispute on your own, you may wish to consult an attorney about sending a letter to the trustee on your behalf. Often in family situations, a family member will not take your requests as seriously as they will an attorney’s requests. Sometimes there are simple miscommunications or misunderstandings that keep you from resolving your disagreements, and a well-drafted letter from an attorney may be able to avoid both of these deterrences. Keep in mind that the attorney will require you to formally retain him or her as your attorney, and there will be a charge for the time involved in meeting with you, reviewing papers and in preparing the letter. However, if this resolves your dispute, it is well worth the investment. When I draft these kinds of letters for clients, I always include a deadline for compliance so that I know when it’s time to take the next step.
If you cannot resolve the dispute out of court, beneficiaries can ask the court for an order that the trustee meet his or her responsibilities to the beneficiary. Often a beneficiary wants
information from the trustee in the form of copies of documents or an accounting. The beneficiary may also want the trustee to manage the assets more prudently. Sometimes the beneficiary believes that the trustee is using trust money for the trustee’s benefit rather than for its intended purpose. If the trustee’s actions are egregious, the beneficiary may be entitled to receive money from the trustee for the trustee’s transgressions. The beneficiary may also be entitled to a new trustee. As a beneficiary you are entitled to ask the court for any of these things.
If you would like more information about protecting your rights as a beneficiary, or about any of my blog topics, please feel free to contact me.
Originally published by Susan on October 21, 2013