What are the rules governing a trustee?

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What are the rules governing a trustee?

My grandmother had a Will of which my children where the heirs; my ex-husband was the trustee. I recently

found out that he used the money for things like bills, vacations, and possibly for the purchase of a house. My grandmother’s attorney, who has now also passed, told me that my ex-husband would not be able to spend money in that matter. What should or can I do? I also was an heir on the estate. My grandmother passed away 11 years ago and the case ended 6 years ago. My ex-husband left me messages stating that he was left the money. Documents clearly read he is a trustee not an heir.

Asked on January 14, 2019 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

A trustee has two legal obligations. The first is to follow the terms of the trust--do only do what or spend the money as, the documents establishing the trust indicate. The second is a "fiduciary duty" imposed by law, which is the obligation to be loyal to the beneficiary and to not benefit yourself at the beneficiaries' expense (which includes not engaging in "self dealing," or taking money for yourself from the trust). Based on what you write, he may have violated one or both duties. Your children, if 18 or over, or you on their behalf, if they are minors, may bring a kind of legal action traditionally called an action for an "accounting" (since you make the trustee "account for" how he has managed the trust) in which a court will evaluate the trustee's actions and can order him to do or not do certain things, to repay money he took from the trust for his own benefit, and/or remove him as trustee. Consult with a trusts and estates attorney to better understand this option and how it applies to your specific situation.


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