Stephen Cockriel Aug. 25, 2016

A California resident who is the beneficiary of a trust might wonder about the responsibilities of the trustee. A lack of awareness related to a trust could cause beneficiaries to be concerned about the terms of the trust as well as their rights. Communication between the trustee and beneficiary can be helpful, but there may be cases in which mistrust continues to be a concern.

People in this position can benefit from understanding their rights, including a right to have a copy of a trust agreement. This may help to clear up misunderstandings about the guidelines for handling trust assets. In the majority of cases, trustees focus on fulfilling their roles responsibly. Although there are cases in which mishandling of trust assets can occur, it is wise to avoid jumping to this conclusion without first communicating.

If the information is not provided, a beneficiary might need to use legal avenues to obtain these details. Trusts are subject to legal oversight and enforcement, but litigation should be a last resort. In most cases, trustees are selected by settlers because of their ability and interest in correctly fulfilling the wishes related to the assets in question. However, legal assistance can be helpful if there is good reason to suspect impropriety.

People who are considering such a vehicle to manage their own assets might be unsure of the best type of trust for their situation. A lawyer can be helpful in explaining the benefits and shortcomings of various types of trusts. The lawyer can also provide advice and counsel on the selection of a trustee, including pointing out that naming a substitute trustee in the document might be necessary in the event that the original trustee becomes incapacitated or dies.