Trustee of a Revocable Trust Has Legal Obligations to Trust Beneficiaries

HNWElder Law, Estate Planning

New Jersey law allows a Court to remove a Trustee for reasons including “….unfitness, unwillingness, or persistent failure of the Trustee to administer the Trust effectively…“

What to Do When a Trustee is Doing Nothing?

A mother’s Living Revocable Trust named her oldest son as Trustee and states all Trust assets are to be divided between her children equally upon her death.   Mom recently died but the Trustee brother has provided the Trust beneficiaries with no information.   When asked for an accounting, he gets annoyed, says he is busy with his dental practice and he will get to it eventually.  Can legal action be taken?

Should You Bring Legal Action to Compel a Trustee to Act?

Legal action should be your last resort.  It’s costly and time consuming and will likely further damage an already uneasy relationship between siblings.

Many people believe naming the oldest child as trustee of their Last Will and/or Trust is the right and “natural“ thing to do, and that the older child will be insulted if a younger sibling is given the job.   However, if the oldest child cannot fulfill the duties for any reason including being too busy, it can cause the problem just described.  I suggest to families that they reach out (again) to their brother and request that he fulfill his obligations in a timely way.   They can also let him know, because he may be unaware, that it is within his right(s) to use funds from the living trust to hire any professionals needed to help administer the estate.  That includes an attorney familiar with trust administration, an accountant, a real estate agent to sell Mom’s house, professionals, etc. to sort through and sell a parents investments and personal property.

NJ Trust Laws Concerning a Trustee’s Obligations

In this case, the brother refuses to change his ways consult an Estate Planning attorney familiar with Trust administration for advice.  Sometimes the issue can be resolved just by having a lawyer send the Trustee a letter outlining the Trustee’s duties.   Again, legal action should be your last resort, but sometimes, unfortunately, that’s what it takes to get a defiant Trustee’s attention.

To discuss your NJ Will Contest and Probate Litigation matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Estate Planning and Trust Attorney

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