How do you handle a bad Trustee who refuses to communicate with you? One of the biggest problems we see for Trust beneficiaries is that their Trustee simply doesn’t communicate with them. The Trustee may not tell you what the assets of the Trust are, may not explain what the investments are, may refuse to talk to you about a sale of the assets, a sale of real property, or even sale of stocks, and may refuse to talk to you about when assets will be distributed. Even when the Trust terms require distributions, a lot of times, a bad Trustee refuses to talk to you about those issues.
Unfortunately, a lot of private people who act as Trustee of Trusts think they can do whatever they want to do. They think that they’re in charge and they have the right to do whatever they want. But that’s not true. There’s actually a whole set of laws under our California Probate Code. Not to mention all the rules under most Trust documents that require a Trustee to do many things for a beneficiary. And, top on that list, is communicating. A Trustee simply must communicate with the beneficiaries.
It doesn’t matter if the beneficiaries are hard to deal with or they get angry or they yell, or whatever the situation is, a Trustee still must communicate with the beneficiaries and keep the beneficiaries reasonably informed of all the actions that the Trustee is taking on behalf of the Trust. And they certainly should be keeping beneficiaries informed about distributions from the Trust because that is an important part of the entire Trust administration process.
Best Ways to Communicate with a Trustee
Of course, as a Trust beneficiary you should not give the Trustee any reason to not talk to you. Being abusive, confrontational, or yelling does not promote open lines of communication. And if you are not able to speak with your Trustee without being any of these things, then you should communicate in writing instead. Or better yet, hire a lawyer to communicate for you. A lawyer can be your objective advisor to tell you what is, and what is not, acceptable. Further, your lawyer can communicate with the trustee is a dispassionate tone that hopefully will get the information flowing between the trustee and you.
If you still cannot obtain communication from the Trustee, then you must file a petition in Probate Court. By filing in court, you then have access to things like subpoenas, document demands, depositions, all the discovery devices that allow you to gather information. If the Trustee won’t talk, then you can just obtain relevant financial information from the banks or brokerage firms yourself.
So the next time you’re in a situation where you have a bad Trustee who refuses to communicate with you, you need to take action and that’s what our California Probate Courts are for–to help you get the answers, the communication, and the information that you’re entitled to as a Trust beneficiary.