Trust laws exist not only to safeguard the trust and trustor, but to also set guidelines for trustees to abide by. A trustee has a duty under the law to communicate with beneficiaries and inform them of progress or changes in the trust administration. Some duties of the trustee include giving beneficiaries a copy of trust documents, providing information and timelines of the trust administration, and preparing an annual accounting synopsis of the trust’s income and expenses.

Unresponsive Trustee

It’s not uncommon for trustees to leave beneficiaries in the dark regarding new trust information. Some trustees are unaware of their duties under the law and believe they can do what they please with the trust. However, this is typically not the case, and if your trustee is unresponsive to your requests for information, you have every right to seek further action. Below are some things for you to consider when wondering how to handle an unresponsive trustee.

Determine If You Have The Proper Contact Method

How do you try to contact your trustee? Is it through email? Do you try to call? Have you sent a letter through the mail? It could be very possible that your trustee simply isn’t checking in on all of their inboxes all the time. A trustee who simply doesn’t check their email regularly may respond quicker to a phone call or text message. If you’re not getting response through phone or texts, you could try sending them a formal letter.

You should also consider the relationship you and the trustee have with each other. If communication typically escalates into hostility between you two, it’s possible that the trustee may be avoiding you on purpose, even though this goes against their duties to keep all beneficiaries informed. If you cannot speak civilly in person or over the phone, it’s important that you keep all communication in writing. Just be sure to ask your questions very clearly and request information without accusations. If this still doesn’t work and your trustee remains unresponsive, it may be time to seek legal assistance.

When To Involve An Attorney

An attorney may be involved in trust communication between beneficiaries and trustees in one of two ways. Most trustees have attorneys who represent them. If you’re having a hard time getting a hold of the trustee, try contacting their lawyer instead. If a trustee is oblivious to their duties under law, an attorney can ensure they are made aware of their responsibilities and encourage the trustee to comply. Some trustees may not want to directly communicate with beneficiaries of the trust, in which case their attorney may be the direct point of contact. To get information via a trustee’s attorney, be sure to follow up your initial call or text with the requests you wish to receive and any attempts you have made to contact the trustee.

If you feel a lack of proper representation in a situation like this, you may also seek out your own attorney. They’ll be able to clearly identify your rights as a beneficiary, and will give you the backup you need to enforce them. It’s always a good idea to have an objective intermediary that can assist in getting you the information you are rightfully entitled to.

File A Petition With The Court

If you and your attorney are still being met with no response, then your last option is to file a petition with your local court. Before you do this though, you should confirm that your attorney is familiar with trust laws and administration. This can make or break your petition’s success. If the trustee fails to respond to the petition, the court can then remove the trustee from the trust. This might also make the trustee liable for any losses or damages the beneficiaries experienced as a result of their lack of communication and ability to perform their duties. A court petition gives additional resources like subpoenas, depositions, and requests for documents to help you get the information you’re seeking. This should be used as the last method for handling an unresponsive trustee, as it can be costly and emotionally messy.

Trustees can conjure various reasons for being unresponsive, but they are legally obligated to communicate with and provide beneficiaries with certain information regarding the trust. Before you go filing a petition right away, try another method of contacting the trustee. If a phone call isn’t working, try an email or maybe send a letter instead. If this still doesn’t garner any results, involve an attorney. They will help get the ball rolling and will likely encourage the trustee to come forward with their information. Only as a last result should a petition be filed with your local court.

Connect With Reliable Trust Attorneys

If you have any questions regarding how to contact an unresponsive trustee, be sure to reach out to the reliable and experienced trust attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader. We’re happy to help you get the information from the trust administration that you are entitled to, and are dedicated to providing the highest quality estate planning resources available.

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Q: What is Probate?
A: Probate is designed to create a “final accounting” upon death. It is the legal process of “proving up” a Will, or verifying that a Will is valid, takes place in one of two instances. First, if a person dies leaving behind a Will, or second, if the deceased has died intestate, that is, has not left behind a Will or estate plan of any type or the Will cannot be found.

Q: Does the Probate process take a long time?
A: Depending on the complexity of the estate and the thoroughness with which accounting has been carried out before death, probate can either be a relatively simple task or a daunting one. Be aware that no matter the situation, probate may be a lengthy process often taking months or possibly years to play out, and one which may take a considerable amount of an executor’s time.

To summarize the process, probate can be broken into six basic steps:

  1. Validation of the Will
  2. Appoint executor
  3. Inventory estate
  4. Pay claims against the estate
  5. Pay estate taxes
  6. Distribute remaining assets

Each of these steps involve legal documentation and validation, and more importantly, proper accounting each step of the way.

Q : What is Probate Court?
A: Probate begins and ends with the special Probate Court set up in each state to handle estate issues. (Sometimes known as the Orphan’s or Chancery Court in certain states.) All actions taken regarding the estate are accountable to this court, and must be noted and reported regularly. This court is staffed by special judges qualified to oversee estate resolution issues.

Q: Does the Trust Administration process take a long time?
A: To summarize the process, trust administration can be broken into five basic steps:

  1. Inventory assets
  2. Determine estate tax
  3. Division of trust assets
  4. File the Federal and State tax forms
  5. Distributions to beneficiaries

Although the trust administration process seems relatively straightforward, there are several reasons it can sometimes be drawn out over several months or even years. The first step, the inventory of assets, must be completed before the trust administration can begin, and this can be difficult to complete depending upon the prior organization and the size and complexity of the decedent’s assets. Next, the 706 estate tax return must be filed within 9 months, or 15 months if an extension is filed. Often, it is prudent to wait until the last minute to file this form. If the spouse of the decedent is in failing health and may pass away before the deadline, then both 706 forms can be used to maximize tax advantages to the estate. The final step, asset distribution, cannot take place until the 706 has been filed, and even then should not take place until the “Closing Letter” is received from the IRS certifying acceptance of the 706 return. This closing letter will take a minimum of 6 to 8 months, and as long as 3 years, to arrive after the 706 is filed. In addition, there may be a state estate or inheritance tax return required, even if a federal return is not required.

Q: I thought that a living trust avoids probate and attorney fees. Why do I have to pay more fees?
A: While having a living trust can significantly reduce costs compared to probate, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in properly administering even a simple living trust. The services of an attorney are required, and that person or firm should be compensated fairly for their services. It is important to remember that the fees allowed for trust administration are usually much lower than those for probate, and there is generally less work involved, as there is less involvement of the courts and state bureaucracy.

Q: Can I pick and choose what assets go into the “B” trust?
A: The answer depends upon the language of the trust document. Certain trusts include “pick and choose” language that allows trustees to selectively place assets into the “B” trust.

Q: How do I transfer the car(s) into my name?A: If you are a relative of the deceased, this is simple in most states. To transfer the title of vehicles owned by the deceased, simply take the death certificate to the DMV, and perform the transfer, paying whatever fees they require. If not a relative, bringing along the will and or any trust documents indicating your status should be sufficient.

Q: What do I do about Social Security?
A: Social Security will continue to send out benefit checks until they are notified of an individual’s death. The executor/spouse/trustee should contact the local Social Security Administration office and notify them of the death, or if a benefit check is received, send it back with a letter notifying them. This is important. If checks continue to be deposited, the recipient can incur liability later when Social Security learns of the recipient’s death.

When you utilize a living trust to plan your final wishes the distributions of your assets will take place outside the probate process. This process is often avoided because of three major factors: it is time-consuming, it can be expensive, and it is an open proceeding that provides a forum for those who may want to challenge your will.
A revocable living trust gives you the power to control the funds while you are still alive, and because the trust is indeed revocable you can make changes or dissolve it entirely if you want to at any time.  Plus, you could cover all your bases by including an incapacity component that names a disability trustee who would manage your affairs in the event of your incapacity.
Executing the trust agreement is one thing, but you also must consider the hands-on tasks involved in on-going trust administration. We have put together a valuable free report that explains trust administration in detail.  We urge you to arrange for the download information to be sent you right now. To obtain this report simply click this link and complete the form that you will see on the right of the page:
Nevada Trust Administration
After you read the report we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. You can do so by clicking this link:  Reno Estate Planning Consultation

Part of the estate planning process involves the execution of documents that direct the transfer of assets to your heirs after you pass away. Most people will use either a will or a trust to accomplish this.
Making sure that you have legally binding documents in place is absolutely essential. However, when you are working with an estate planning lawyer to draw up these documents you should consider the matter of postmortem planning as well.
A document can't get up off the desk and take action. The will or the trust is going to provide instructions, but you must also arrange for human beings to make your wishes become a reality after you pass away.
Individuals who express their wishes through the execution of a will must understand the fact that the estate will be passing through the probate process. Your family may not have any any idea how probate works.  At least the executor that you chose should have some understanding of the probate process.
A wise course of action may be to make arrangements for the attorney who assists you as you are drawing up your will to act as the probate attorney after your death.
The same thing is true of trust administration. You should instruct your trustee to speak with your attorney about administering the trust upon your incapcity or death.  This will help ensure that your fiduciaries will have the legal support that they need to carry out your estate plans for the benefit of your loved ones.

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