A beneficiary is entitled to a distribution of trust assets if the trust authorizes such distribution. Here are some examples of the different types of trust distribution arrangements for beneficiaries:
- An immediate distribution upon the death of the person who made the trust
- An immediate distribution upon reaching a certain age (for example, 18 or 25)
- A distribution of principal
- A distribution of income
- A monthly distribution
- A distribution at some specific point in time
Keep in mind that the possibility of distribution of trust assets to beneficiaries might not be the same in every trust – some trusts authorize distribution to beneficiaries, some do not. You would have to have an attorney read the trust document to find out for sure, presuming that the trust document is not unclear (as some are). Some beneficiaries are entitled to distribution of assets, some are entitled only to distribution of income, and some are not entitled to any distribution, possibly for a long time. Some beneficiaries are not entitled to any distribution at all, such as contingent beneficiaries.
Every month of delay of distribution of trust assets costs the beneficiary loss of use and enjoyment of their share of the trust. If the trustee is taking too long, a trust attorney can go a long way in showing them that distributing the trust to the beneficiaries should be a priority.
As we said, a distribution to beneficiaries of a trust depends on the trust language. If you don’t have a copy of the trust, you can ask the trustee to provide a copy of the trust to you. If the trustee refuses, you can bring a court proceeding to compel the production of a trust.
On one hand, it is understandable that the trustee has many things they have to get to. On the other hand, a diligent beneficiary should not sit by idly for this entire temporal period, especially if he believes that a trustee is failing the nonwaivable duty to “exercise reasonable care, diligence, and prudence.” For example, a court may disqualify a trustee on grounds such as commingling funds, mismanagement, dishonesty, and substance abuse.
New York courts and will step in if the trustee “endangers the trust” or “seriously impedes its administration.” If the trustee is non-responsive, a beneficiary can send a written demand to the trustee for an accounting and distribution of trust assets to beneficiaries. This request serves two purposes. First, it may be a requirement to commence any proceeding in court against the trustee. And second, it gives the trustee notice that you are serious—which may give way to a faster distribution. If the trustee does not respond to this written demand, the beneficiary may then commence a motion to compel accounting with the court. New York courts generally compel such an accounting if it’s for good cause.
It is a fine line between giving the trustee deference and desiring to receive the inheritance promptly. When a beneficiary knows that a trustee is mishandling the trust, a court should immediately get involved. In many cases, however, a quarrel with the trustee is not in the best interests of either the beneficiary or the trust. Therefore, it is best to discuss distribution of trust assets to a beneficiary with a competent New York trust attorney.
Call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233 or (718) 509-9774 and make an appointment to discuss your rights regarding your share of the trust.
 N.Y. Est. Powers & Trusts Law § 11-1.7(a)(1).
 N.Y. Surr. Ct. Proc. Act Law § 711.
 In re Braloff, 162 N.Y.S.2d 620, 623 (2d Dep’t 1957), affirmed, 173 N.Y.S.2d 817 (1958).
 N.Y. Surr. Ct. Proc. Act Law § 2102(1).
 See id.§ 2205, 2206.