A trust is a legal document that allows a person, usually called a "grantor," to give their assets to another person or institution to manage, called the "trustee." The trustee holds the legal title for these assets on behalf of the beneficiary or person who is receiving the assets from the grantor.
Trustees have a fiduciary duty to administer the trust according to its terms. The trustee is responsible for collecting assets for the trust and making sure they are protected according to the trust's terms. They are also responsible for overseeing any investments, reporting and paying taxes and keeping a record of every transaction.
Specific state laws will dictate the legal action you can take a trust beneficiary. However, understanding your rights and what options may be available will help you protect your rights and make sure the trust is handled according to the grantor's terms and wishes.
Trust beneficiaries should be aware of their rights, which include:
- The right to receive payments in accordance with the terms of the trust
- The right to receive information about the trust and how they can enforce their rights
- The right to an accounting of all income, expenses and distributions from the trust
- The right to remove or replace the trustee if the trustee has violated their fiduciary duties
Beneficiaries can request the trustee to provide a special accounting of their management of the trust. If you suspect the trustee has violated his or her duties or is not following the terms of the trust, requesting a special accounting of the assets is one of the first steps to take.
Taking legal action
You have the right to pursue legal action if you believe the trustee has violated his or her duties or if the trustee fails to provide proper documentation of all activities managing the trust. Legal action can result in the removal and replacement of the trustee and help protect your rights as a beneficiary.
These cases are complicated and require an understanding of trusts and probate court. A probate attorney can help you better understand your rights and what legal options may be available if you need guidance or suspect the trust is not being managed properly.