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Accounting, Please! Requesting a Pre-Death Accounting from a Trustee

Yes and no. Pre-death accountings refer to an accounting for the period before your parent died. If there was a Trustee other than your parent, you may be able to obtain an accounting of their activity prior to a parent’s death. But getting a pre-death accounting is not absolute.

The problem is that while your parent is alive, and assuming the Trust is revocable (which most Trusts created by parents are), the Trustee only owes duty to your parent, not to you. This is true even if you are named as a successor beneficiary of the Trust. Only once your parent dies, and the Trust becomes irrevocable, do you have a vested right to things like accountings.

Most Trustees acknowledge that they have a duty to account for you from the period when your parent died to present. But many Trustees do not want to discuss what happened before a parent died. “I did what mom [or dad] told me to do,” is the common Trustee response.

If a Trustee refuses to provide you with a pre-death accounting, then you can go to court and ask the probate judge to order the Trustee to account for their pre-death activity. You can also ask the Trustee to simply provide you with financial information for the pre-death period. Financial information is not an accounting, but in many situations it’s just as good. For example, if the primary asset is a brokerage account with $1 million in it, then seeing the brokerage account statement for the year prior to a parents death would probably be enough to determine what happened in that account during that time period. There is no need for an accounting if the account statement is reasonable.

If, however, the account statement shows a large withdrawal of $500,000 a month before the parent died, then you are going to want the Trustee to account for those funds. It all depends on the facts of your case. But in many cases it pays to obtain the financial statements first because they may point you in the right direction.

There are times, unfortunately, when the court will deny your request for a pre-death accounting. Again, the right to obtain one is not absolute. It is left with the discretion of the court. The judge can say yes or no. But pre-death financial information is the next best thing. So start there and see what you can find. It may answer your questions, or it may tell you where the problems can be found.

An experienced attorney can offer advice on your particular situation. Let Albertson & Davidson fight for your inheritance. Call us now or fill out our online form for a complimentary case evaluation. We now offer virtual meetings!