Trust beneficiaries have legal rights to trust information and payments in California. If you benefit from any kind of California trust, learn about how a trust works and what you can expect. In particular, many beneficiaries have questions about (1) what the trustee needs to tell them about the trust and (2) when they can receive payments from the trust.
Getting Information About the Trust from the Trustee
The person or company who manages the trust’s assets for your benefit is called the trustee. A trustee has a duty of loyalty to the trust beneficiaries, as well as a duty of care to manage the trust assets competently and prudently.
As a result, the trustee must keep you reasonably informed about the trust. If you have questions about how the trustee is administering the trust, you can request a report from the trustee. The report should detail the trust’s assets, liabilities, payments, and amounts due. In addition to this report, the trustee needs to provide you with an accounting at least once a year. The accounting should tell you how the trust money is being invested and spent.
In addition, the trustee has to keep information about the trust and your private information as a beneficiary as confidential as possible. Sometimes, the trustee may need to disclose information to administer the trust (such as to retain professionals or file taxes) but otherwise everything should be confidential. This means that the payments you receive from the trust should not be public knowledge in most cases.
Receiving Trust Payments
The legal document that creates the trust should specify when beneficiaries can receive payments from the trust and in what amount. If you do not have the most current trust document, ask the trustee for a copy. It should explain either specific payments that should be made, or how the trustee may exercise discretion in making payments. If the trustee has discretion to make payments, ask him or her about the decision-making process. You may realize more about how to receive trust distributions than you did before.
Many trust disputes start because beneficiaries feel the trustee is not making required distributions or is mishandling property in the trust. If you are in this situation, reach out to a lawyer who handles trust and estate disputes for legal advice about your options.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.