What can I do if I think the trustees are acting illegally?

2 answers | Last updated: Dec 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I believe the trustees, who happen to be family members, have been mishandling my father's estate. What rights do we have as beneficiaries? I briefly saw a copy of the trust, but the trustees refuse to give me or any other beneficiary any documents or financial records. We don't want to start a war, but there is evidence of theft. We need help, but can't afford an attorney.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

These are serious charges.

Trustees have a number of legal duties--including one big one: to keep each beneficiary reasonably informed of the trust and how it is being handled. Trustees are also required to file accounts with the beneficiaries--and must usually do that annually. And they are absolutely forbidden by law from using the trust property solely for their own benefit.

If the trustees will not give you a copy of the trust documents or you have good reason to believe that aren't doing what the trust requires them to do, your most reasonable course may be to hire a lawyer for help. A court will not generally step in to right such wrongs--and they would be tricky to handle on your own. You may be able to help keep down legal fees by asking the lawyer whether there is some way you can help out on the case, such as by doing some of the necessary legwork.

If you can prove the trustees have been mismanaging the trust property or violating their duties in other ways, a court may remove them from the job, cancel the actions they have taken, and require them to reimburse the estate for losses their recklessness or dishonesty has caused. In fact, they may also be required to pay for the cost of the attorney you hired to track down the wrongdoing.

Community Answers

Kidvalentine2133 answered...

Telling people they need to hire an attorney is totally undermining the use and need of this website. People are not that stupid. Of course we all know we "need" attorneys to help us solve our legal problems. The reason we come to this website is because we can't afford them, have no money and need advice other than "consult an attorney."