Beneficiaries have rights to trust information. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. If that’s not enough, then you can get the information through the court with the help of a trust attorney.
If the trustee is not giving you information about the trust when asked, then they may be hiding something, in contravention of your rights. If you have that suspicion, it’s best to consult with a New York trust attorney. You can call us at 718-509-9774. We can send the trustee a letter on your behalf, explaining that you have rights and that failure to provide information can result in the removal of the trustee from the trust.
If the trustee is not providing information, the first step is to ask for it
When a beneficiary does not ask the trustee anything and the trustee does not say anything, beneficiaries can wonder if they even have rights to any information about the trust. Sometimes, the beneficiary has to be the one to take the first step and ask the trustee what’s happening in the trust. That might be all that’s needed.
Some beneficiaries are not on speaking terms with the trustee. If that’s the case, you don’t have to speak with them. You can send an email or a letter. Or you can have your trust attorney send an email or a letter to the trustee or to their attorney.
If the trustee is ignoring the beneficiary’s request for information about the trust and is ignoring their rights, then it may be a good first step to have an attorney write them a letter.
Beneficiaries have a right to an accounting of the trust upon request
If the trustee is still does not providing information about the trust, your trust attorney can start a court proceeding to compel the trustee to provide the information you are seeking. Section 2102(1) of the Surrogate Court Procedures Act provides that a beneficiary can petition the court to force the trustee to provide information about a New York trust. The statute states: “a proceeding may be commenced to require a fiduciary to supply information concerning the assets or affairs of a trust relevant to the interest of the petitioner when the fiduciary has failed after a request made upon him in writing therefor.”
A trust accounting is a document that details every transaction that occurred in the trust and provides some summaries and explanations of the transactions. The document consists of various schedules in a court-approved format and complying with general accounting standards. At a minimum, the beneficiary has a right to a trust accounting that includes schedules listing line by line all of the assets that are a part of the trust, all of the expenses of the trust, all income of the trust, and proposed distributions of the trust.
Trustees of a trust do not have an automatic obligation to file an accounting of the trust. But once the beneficiaries request an accounting, they are usually entitled to it.
An informal accounting may be a good middle ground
If a beneficiary and a trustee agree to an informal accounting, it might work, as long as the beneficiary is satisfied, they have all the information. When a trustee files an informal accounting, they don’t have to file it with the court. They can just provide it to the beneficiaries. A trustee may ask a beneficiary to approve an informal accounting before the trustee makes distributions of trust funds.
If the beneficiary is not satisfied with an informal accounting, they can ask for a formal accounting, which is information to which they usually have a right. If the trustee fails to provide one, the beneficiaries can compel the trustee to provide one. If the trustee is ordered by the court to provide an accounting, they usually do or get removed by the court. Sometimes they provide an incomplete or fraudulent accounting. Beneficiaries can sue to challenge those accountings and get the money that the trustee may be keeping from the beneficiaries.
And if the accounting reveals that the trustee is mishandling the funds, the beneficiary can petition the court to remove the trustee and have the trust reimbursed for the lost property.
As a beneficiary, you typically have the right to information about the trust and you can get it with the help of a New York trust attorney. You can call The Law Offices of Albert Goodwin and set up a consultation. We can be reached at 718-509-9774.