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Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 37377
Experience:  16 yrs estate law, real estate. Wills/Trusts/Probate
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My mother has a family trust, and my sister is the Trustee.

Customer Question

My mother has a family trust, and my sister is the Trustee. There are four siblings, all of us equal heirs of what is left after my mother passes away (she is 90 years old and near death)
Some of the siblings feel that the financial assets of the estate are being wasted, and want a financial accounting of what is being spent, and we want to be involved in the direction of the affairs of the assets of the estate (such as when my mothers home will be sold (she is in a rest home), etc.).
Is there a way to send a letter demanding an accounting to date, and, some kind of intervention in the future direction of the estate's (trusts) affairs? We feel the assets are not being taken care of. We don't have money to hire an attorney, but would be able to afford to have an attorney at least send a letter to "alert" my sister as to the concerns, and that she will be held accountable.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 10 months ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply, but rest assured, I am working on your question.

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Can you tell me if the trust is revocable or if it is irrevocable?

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Do you have a copy of the trust?

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If so, does it give the beneficiaries any power to determine what happens to assets once mother passes?

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Is the trustee actually losing assets or are they not investing them so that they produce very good returns?

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
1) I believe it is irrevocable.2) I don't have a copy of the trust, but I know it passes through, and after the survivor (my mother) passes away, all assets pass through to the heirs (4 siblings in equal shares)3) I don't think the beneficiaries have that power, I believe the trustee disburses the assets.4) The potential heirs have had a vacant home accruing $4,000 interest and expenses per month (my mother is in a rest home and cannot go back to her home), and we have demanded since June that the home be sold to help pay expenses. But the trustee refuses to act, so since June, we've wasted almost $20,000, and there are other things we are concerned about concerning her trustworthiness, but too much to mention here. Beyond that - the relationship with the trustee is "adversarial" and the siblings have a "lack of trust" issue.So basically I just want to know what our rights are, and what her obligations are to preserve the trust for the future of my mother first, and beyond that, to the heirs. We feel basically, that she is incapable of handling the estate's affairs in a wise manner.Gary Savelli
Expert:  Barrister replied 10 months ago.

Ok, if it is irrevocable, then any beneficiary can send the trustee a written request for an accounting of the trust and the trustee has a legal duty to provide it within a "reasonable" time.. Reasonable is typically considered 10 days. I would send the request certified mail as well as first class so you have a record of it.

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And it would be unusual for the trust to give the beneficiaries the power to determine what happens to assets as that is normally specified in the trust and the trustee just follows those directives. So without any specific power, the trustee has sole discretion to determine what happens to assets.

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However, if the trustee is doing something foolish like investing in lottery tickets, the beneficiaries can file for an injunction in probate court to stop it. The trustee has a legal duty to follow the "prudent investor rule" which says assets must be invested in relatively safe investments, not wild and risky schemes that could cause substantial losses to the trust.

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Regarding the house, if the trustee is just letting it sit, not renting or selling it, I would opine that could be considered an abuse of power and it would justify at the very least having a local estate law or probate attorney send a letter stating that the trustee is abusing their fiduciary duty to the trust and beneficiaries and threatening to sue her personally for "waste" which is when someone is not handling assets property and causing losses.

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If she continues with this, then you may have to take more formal action with a suit against her in probate court for breach of her fiduciary duty.

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Thank you very much, you have answered my question. Gary Savelli
Expert:  Barrister replied 10 months ago.

You are very welcome. Happy to help any time.

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If you feel your original question and any related follow ups have been answered, I would very much appreciate a positive rating on the answer I have provided as that is the only way I receive credit for my work. If you have a new question the JustAnswer folks require that you start a new question page, but you can request me by putting "For Barrister" in the caption and they will get it to me.

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Thanks much

Barrister

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