When Estate Trustees Engage Unethically, Beneficiaries Do Have Options
A trustee earns its name for one very important reason — they are a trusted individual. For this reason, people often exercise a great deal of due diligence when assigning a trustee to their estates. However, not every trustee lives up to their name. Trustees sometimes ignore the guidelines of the estate or steal assets. For estate beneficiaries on the receiving end of this misconduct, there are options.
An important point to remember is that an estate plan is a legal document. Not only did your loved one likely prepare the estate plan with a legal professional, but there is also likely a copy of the document on file with the local courthouse.
For this reason, if you suspect that an estate is not being handled legally, you can petition the court to perform an accounting report. During this process, a court-appointed representative will review the estate, and all performed transactions to spot any inaccuracies. An attorney can help you initiate this request to help you validate your concerns.
Another option estate beneficiaries can exercise in this type of situation is a request to have the trustee removed. Although your loved one may have named this individual as the trustee, if it is discovered that the individual is not managing the estate properly, they can be removed from the estate.
Similar to an accounting review, you will need to petition the court to remove the trustee. However, remember that hearsay will not be enough to have your request approved. You will need to provide evidence showing misconduct on the part of the trustee. Again, an attorney can assist with this process.
When a trustee outright steals money or assets from the estate, there may no longer be an option for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance from the estate. In this instance, beneficiaries do have a legal right to seek monetary damages directly from the trustee to recoup whatever has been lost.
Similar to having the trustee removed, you will need to prove that the trustee embezzled the assets or funds. However, keep in mind, it may not be necessary for you to have the trustee removed or to have the estate accounting report reviewed before moving forward with this step.
If you are listed as a beneficiary on an estate in which the trustee is not engaging ethically, remember that you do not have to tolerate this behavior. Ensure you speak with a probate lawyer as soon as possible to rectify this situation.