Usually when you see posts from us about trusts, we are highlighting some item that you should think about before you set up your estate plan – blended families, grandchildren, taxes, etc. What we don’t often blog about is what happens if you are the beneficiary of one of these plans.
What can you do when you think you’re being cheated in a trust or estate administration? A litigation-oriented attorney can immediately help you with a handful of items. You should be able to get accountings, and your attorney can tell you if they look right, or if there’s something fishy going on. Second, if there is a problem, you have not only the right, but the responsibility to yourself, the other beneficiaries, and to the person who created the trust to get to the bottom of it. Your attorney can determine exactly what the trustee may be doing wrong, which is important, because that can dictate the approach you take in dealing with the trustee. We can help you get the trustee’s attention and ensure that whatever is happening stops, potentially having the trustee replaced or getting additional court oversight.
We recently had a case come to us where our client was the beneficiary of a trust set up by his stepmother. She had left money in trust for him that was supposed to have been used to supplement his working income until he reached a certain age, at which point it will all be paid out to him. Unfortunately, the trustee had other plans.
For several years, and with a few different attorneys working with him at various times, our client had requested funds from this trust. We should point out that our client was a responsible adult, had a job in the financial sector, and did not have any of the types of problems that would typically cause a person to not receive distributions, such as a drug or alcohol problem or a history of poor money management. After making a career change, however, he was in a difficult financial position.
It was several years before our client had even gotten an accounting of the assets in the trust, and after making a written request for payment under the terms of the trust, the trustee’s response was essentially that we should simply ask the court to remove him. We happily gave him exactly that. We sued the trustee in the local probate court, and after several months of back-and-forth and some difficult conversations with opposing counsel and with the judge, we were able to get the client regular payments on a predictable schedule, including a provision for increased payments for emergency expenses.
If you suspect that a trust or estate to which you are the beneficiary is being mismanaged, give us a call and we will go to bat for you.
Ben Worsowicz is an Associate at Lardiere McNair, LLC. To read more about our firm, please visit www.lmcounsel.com.
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