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By: Scott Grossman on October 15th, 2016

Know Your Rights as a Beneficiary of a Trust

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It can be a tricky situation. You know you are named as a beneficiary of your loved one’s trust, but the trustee has not contacted you. As far as you can tell, the trustee has not even started the process. You don’t want to appear greedy or insensitive, but you know this is what your loved one wanted. While this is not a common occurrence, if the trustee is not fulfilling his or her duties, a beneficiary may need to pursue legal action in order to get what is rightfully his or hers. Beneficiaries must be aware of their legal rights when it comes to inheritance.

The following are the basic rights you have as a beneficiary with regard to your inheritance:

Your Rights as a Beneficiary

  • You have a right to receive a copy of the trust. If the trustee does not provide you with a copy, you can demand one. The California Probate Code calls for any beneficiary of a trust to be given a copy of the trust agreement when it becomes irrevocable. A revocable trust becomes irrevocable when the creator of the trust passes away.
  • You are entitled to receive your distribution.  However, you have to wait a minimum of 120 days. Generally, trustees provide beneficiaries a notice that the trust became irrevocable and they’re entitled to a copy. It also states that if you’re to challenge the trust, it must be done within 120 days of that notice. Most trustees won’t make any distributions during the 120 period to protect themselves if the beneficiary does challenge the trust.
  • You are entitled to an accounting for the trust. Before distributions are made, beneficiaries have a right to know what assets are held in the trust, what expenses are paid, and income received. If the trustee does not provide accounting, you can petition the court. This compels the trustee to prepare and distribute the accounting. In many cases, the trustee will send out accounting prior to asset distribution. If you want to dispute the accounting, do so quickly.
  • You have a right to look to the court in order to force the trustee to make your distribution. If the trustee is being unreasonable with distributing the assets, you are entitled to take legal action. Beneficiaries can file a petition with the appropriate probate court to compel the trustee to make a distribution. If they refuse to comply, trustees can be removed