Trust Beneficiaries And Heirs Have Rights
If you are the beneficiary of a trust, in some ways, you may feel kind of hopeless, or at least, powerless. Your inheritance is based on instructions left in the trust to a trustee—or in other cases, what you get and when, may be totally dependent on the trustee’s discretion, if the trust gives the trustee broad discretionary power, or if the trust doesn’t have definitive terms as to when you get how much of what the trustee is overseeing in the trust.
But as the beneficiary of a trust, you aren’t altogether powerless. There are laws in place that allow you to at least make sure that you are being treated fairly, and to ensure that your trust assets aren’t being wasted or stolen.
Copies of the Trust
As a beneficiary, you get copies of the trust (which should have all the terms that the trustee must follow), when someone who created the trust, passes away. All heirs must get a copy of the trust; even heirs that have been disinherited get copies of the trust document. However, you can request copies of the trust document at any time.
Challenging the Trust
Challenging a trust is a bit tougher than challenging the validity of a will, because there is no open probate case—one purpose of a trust is to avoid the probate process entirely.
The copies of the trust that are sent to the heirs, will have in it information about the deadline to challenge the validity of a trust. The grounds to challenge a trust are much like the grounds to challenge a will, or other estate document. The Challenger can allege fraud, coercion, or lack of mental capacity by the person who created the trust.
If you’re looking to challenge the trust, you have a tight time window to do it in. You only have 120 days from the time the trust was mailed from the trustee, to the affected heirs. That time limit applies to people challenging the trust; it does not apply to lawsuits from beneficiaries who don’t contest the validity of the trust, but which are challenging the trustee’s handling of the trust.
Right to Information
As a beneficiary you have a right to get reasonable information about the handling of the trust. That’s not necessarily the right to a full accounting, but certainly basic financial records about what has been disbursed, how, and to whom, are all information that a beneficiary would be entitled to get from a trustee.
Other information that can be requested is information surrounding the sale of any real estate, information on any investments being held by the trust, and information about the entire inventory of the estate that is included in the trust.
Trustees need to treat all beneficiaries equally (unless the terms of the trust say differently). If the trustee does not do this, the beneficiaries may be able to file a lawsuit against the trustee. This is most likely to happen in trusts that give the trustee broad discretionary power to distrust trust assets.
Questions about your trust? Call the Torrance will and estate attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today.