Besides the trust creator, the trustee(s) and the beneficiaries are entitled to a copy of a trust. Upon creation of the trust, the trustees must have a copy of the trust to carry out their role as custodian and distributor of the assets. In New York State, a trustee has no obligation to provide a copy of the trust to beneficiaries unless asked to do so.
A trustee should provide a copy of the trust, along with contact information of the trustee, to the current beneficiaries of the trust. This way, the beneficiary is aware of how they may receive distributions. Moreover, the trustee has a duty of loyalty to the beneficiaries of the trust. A current beneficiary of a trust may receive a copy of the trust by simply asking the trustee.
A current or direct beneficiary is someone entitled to distributions of trust income or principal in the present. Some beneficiaries are contingent – meaning they only inherit upon the passing of an event. For example, a grantor may name a child as beneficiary of a trust and a grandchild to inherit upon the passing of their parent. The grandchild is a contingent beneficiary. The grandchild may have the right to receive a copy of the trust if the trust is irrevocable, but not if revocable. Upon termination of the trust, remainder beneficiaries are entitled to notice of such termination and a copy of the trust.
If a trustee fails to provide a copy of the trust, a written demand letter should be sent to the trustee(s) reiterating the request. If the trustee is not forthcoming, the beneficiary can bring a court proceeding. Specifically, a motion is usually made in Surrogates Court in the county where the assets are held or where the trustee resides. The motion asks the Court to issue an order compelling the trustee to provide the beneficiary with a copy of the trust.
If someone does not know whether they are a named beneficiary, they can make a written request to the trustee. After receiving a copy of the trust, a beneficiary should review it with an attorney. The beneficiary should consider whether it is necessary to compel the trustee to provide an accounting or a distribution of the trust assets. An experienced trusts and estates attorney at Burner Prudenti Law, P.C. can explain the terms of a trust and whether you are entitled to distributions.