What can a beneficiary do if the trustee isn’t doing their job?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What can a beneficiary do if the trustee isn’t doing their job?

I am a beneficiary and my mother a trustee. She is not holding up responsibilities correctly and has been withholding monies from me as well as not speaking to me. If at all possible i would like to terminate her as the trustee of my account as she is to not be trusted at this time. I need help and answers as she doesn’t care about the well being of her own child/children and it needs to stop.

Asked on May 18, 2018 under Estate Planning, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

A trustee has a "fiduciary duty" to the beneficiary of a trust: she must not put her interests ahead of the beneficiary's interests, must be loyal the beneficiary, must follow the terms or instructions found in the documents creating the trust, and must use reasonable care in managing the trust. If the trustee is failing to do these things, the beneficiary can bring a type of legal action in county court traditionally called an action for an "accounting" (though your state may have a different name for it) to make the trustee "account" to the court for her actions. If the trustee is found to be breaching her fiduciary duty, the court can replace her as trustee (and/or order her to do or not do certain things; or order her to repay any amounts she improperly took from the trust). You have the right to bring this action as your own attorney ("pro se"), but that is not recommended: this is much more complex than, say, suing someone in small claims court, and you are strongly advised to retain a new attorney to help you, especially if you want to bring the action on an urgen ("emergent") basis, which adds to the procedural complexity.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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