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How to Train Your Trustee: Dealing with a Trustee that Doesn’t Know How to Act Properly Can Be Difficult

Some Trustees need to be trained. Especially individual Trustees who may have no experience acting as a Trustee before. Many people mistakenly believe that a Trustee steps into the shoes of the Trust creator and as such the Trustee can do “whatever” they want. Not trust. Under Probate Code section 16000, every Trustee must follow the Trust terms.

Trust Terms

When it comes to Trustees overseeing irrevocable Trusts, it is particularly important that they follow the Trust terms. For example, many irrevocable Trusts will require Trustees to make distributions to the Trust beneficiaries if they need it for their health, education, maintenance, and support. These distribution standards must be followed. How does a Trustee know what the beneficiary needs for something like support? They ask. The Trustee has an affirmative duty to find out what the beneficiary’s needs are and to make appropriate distributions to meet those needs.

All too often a Trustee will decide the amount to distribute to a Trust beneficiary without ever asking what the beneficiary needs for maintenance or support. Worse yet, some Trustees simply refuse to make a distribution no matter what the beneficiary’s needs are. Either way, the beneficiary is being short changed. The Trustee has failed to meet the Trust terms in either of these cases.

Training the Trustee

You may have to take your Trustee to court to force a proper distribution from the Trust. But you can also start by educating your Trustee. Telling them what your needs are and then requesting a reasonable distribution from the Trust. For example, if you pay rent of $2,000 per month, then you can ask your Trustee to pay that amount for you. That would be an obvious example of a support need.

In other words, if your Trustee doesn’t understand how to properly administer the Trust, then you may have to train them up. Give them your list of needs and ask for a reasonable distribution to cover those needs. Either the Trustee will get the idea and make a reasonable distribution to you, or you will have to take your Trustee to court.