DISADVANTAGES OF LIVING TRUSTS (Part 2) – THE TYRANT TRUSTEE

A seldom-mentioned downside to living trusts is the trustee’s lack of accountability to any court. Usually this is a good feature, and saves time and money for everyone. But not always.

Court oversight serves no purpose when the parents are the trustees, since it is their money and they should not be accountable to anyone. But it can be a big deal when a child becomes successor trustee, whether before or after the death of the last surviving parent.

For whatever reason, the successor trustee is seldom transparent in sharing information with the other beneficiaries, who are usually siblings. Human nature being what it is, the beneficiaries assume the worst, i.e., that there is a reason the trustee is keeping them in the dark. For example, since not required by the Oregon Uniform Trust Code, the trustee may feel there is no need to prepare or circulate an inventory of what is on hand. Unless prodded, the trustee may also decline to provide an accounting of receipts and disbursements. The trustee may take excessive trustee fees or pay personal expenses from the trust. The court does not police these items.

It is true the beneficiaries have limited rights under the Uniform Trust Code to file suit to obtain information, etc., but they must hire an attorney to do so. In a probate (or a conservatorship), the executor is required by law to share information, and must secure court approval prior to taking executor fees.

Beware of the rogue successor trustee when using a revocable trust.