How do Trust beneficiaries know how much they are entitled to? Often, rather than stating a specific dollar amount for each beneficiary, the Trust will state that each beneficiary is entitled to a certain percentage of the Trust estate. This can cause frustration if the Trustee will not provide the value of the Trust assets.
Trust beneficiaries who are kept in the dark have a right to ask for information. In many cases beneficiaries can demand an accounting from the Trustee. Trust beneficiaries should review the Trust terms for any specific provisions regarding accountings.
Some beneficiaries have a mandatory right to an accounting, while other beneficiaries only have a right to an accounting at the discretion of the court. Current income or principal beneficiaries (beneficiaries who are currently entitled to receive assets) are entitled to an accounting under the California Probate Code. Current beneficiaries can request an accounting informally (via a letter to the Trustee) and/or demand a court-ordered accounting by filing a petition in probate court.
Remainder and/or contingent beneficiaries (beneficiaries who are not entitled to assets until a specific event happens, such as the death(s) of the original beneficiaries) have a right to information, but not necessarily a right to an accounting. Remainder beneficiaries can go to court and ask the court to exercise its discretion and order an accounting.
What if the accounting is inaccurate? Beneficiaries can object to the accounting by writing an objection letter (for informal accountings) or by filing an objection with the court (for formal accountings). There are statutory deadlines for objecting to accountings. If the beneficiaries fail to object to a Trust accounting in the proper time frame, they will be forever barred from bringing claims relating to the accounting in the future. Beneficiaries who have questions or concerns about Trust accountings should consult with an attorney who is experienced in Trust and Estate law as soon as possible.