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By: Scott Grossman on August 27th, 2016

Trustees Sometimes Stall When The Time Comes To Distribute An Inheritance


When your loved one passes, you may find that he made arrangements for you to receive a portion of his estate. These arrangements may have been made under the terms of a trust. The person named as the successor trustee of that trust is responsible for making the required distributions. Usually, this occurs within a reasonable time period after the creator of the trust passes away. Unfortunately, however, there are instances where a trustee may delay when it comes time to make distributions to beneficiaries. If you are entitled to inheritance and the trustee is stalling, it is important to take the proper steps in order to protect your legal rights.

Steps to Take to Get a Trustee to Distribute Your Inheritance

What should you do if the trustee will not distribute your inheritance? Consider taking the following steps:

  1. Contact an attorney for assistance. While there may be an attorney representing the trustee or the trust itself, this attorney does not necessarily represent your individual interests. Beneficiaries do not always need their own attorney. However, if you are dealing with an uncooperative trustee, it is best to have your own legal advisor in your corner.
  2. Carefully review the terms of the trust. Are the distributions called for under the terms of the trust discretionary? In these cases, the trustee may have the authority to make the decision as to whether a distribution should be made. This discretion, however, is not absolute.  Having an attorney represent your interests in these circumstances can help to ensure that the trustee is acting reasonably and within the law.
  3. Make a request for your distribution directly to the trustee. Ideally, this request should be made in writing and should cite the specific provisions within the trust that call for the distribution.
  4. If the trustee does not cooperate, request an explanation for the withholding of the distribution. All communications with the trustee should be made in writing so that you can present this information to the court if needed.
  5. Determine whether the debts of the trust and estate have been paid. In many cases, the trustee may be obligated to pay these debts before making distributions of trust principal to the beneficiaries.
  6. Ensure that you have completed all of your obligations as a beneficiary in order to receive your inheritance. Some trusts require that a beneficiary provide the trustee with certain information before a distribution can be made. For example, the trust may call for you to provide proof that you are enrolled in an accredited college or university before receiving money to be used for school.
  7. Determine whether anyone is challenging the validity of the trust. If there is a challenge occurring, the trustee may be unable to make distributions until the issue is resolved.
  8. If all else fails, you may need to resort to litigation. An experienced attorney can help you prepare the appropriate petition for the probate court in order to request that the trustee be compelled to make distributions. If you are forced to go this route, you may also want to request that the trustee be compelled to render an accounting. This will allow you to assess what has been done with the trust assets to date, as well as review the expenses and income.

When trustees simply will not cooperate with beneficiaries, the end result may be litigation. If you find yourself in this situation, chances are good that it may be your first time ever having to go to court in order to protect your rights as the beneficiary of a trust. We encourage you to get started learning more by checking out our free guide, Winning the Inheritance Battle: the Ultimate Guide to California Trust and Probate Litigation.

Related Links

The Grossman Law Firm, APC (951) 523-8307