Site icon Jason S. Buckingham, Attorney & Counselor At Law

Uninformed beneficiaries

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Beneficiaries are often uninformed when it comes to estate administration. There are two things beneficiaries should know: (1) as beneficiaries, they have rights during the administration; and (2) the administration will take time, so a little patience goes a long way.

By law, successor trustees are required to keep beneficiaries reasonably informed about the trust administration, provide periodic accountings to beneficiaries, and act reasonably and in good faith for the beneficiaries’ best interests.

So, beneficiaries can ask for information, for example: Has the house been appraised? Could you send me a copy of the appraisal report? When is escrow set to close?

Beneficiaries have a right to receive accounting reports from the trustee (annually, or on a change of trustee, or prior to distribution), to keep beneficiaries informed of estate expenses, income, and assets in the custody of the trustee.

Beneficiaries also have the right to ensure the trustee is acting reasonably and fairly in carrying out the administration, because the beneficiaries are the equitable owners of the trust assets. The trustee is working for the beneficiaries.

Sometimes, uninformed beneficiaries mistakenly believe they have the right to nitpick and second-guess everything the trustee is doing (usually due to family history between the beneficiary and trustee). However, beneficiaries do not have the right to substitute their own judgment for the trustee. So long as the trustee is carrying out their duties competently and in good faith, the law affords trustees wide latitude in handling the details of the administration.

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