Trustees Have a Duty to Account (No Matter What)

Our Trust and Estate Litigation Lawyers located in Lynnfield, Greater Boston, Massachusetts are responding to a question concerning whether trustees of irrevocable trusts, revocable trusts, realty trusts, special needs trusts, and charitable trusts trusts can be relieved from a duty to account to beneficiaries. The Law Office of Stefan Cencarik, PLLC represents beneficiaries and trustees of Massachusetts trusts and estates, and serves clients in the greater Boston area and Eastern Massachusetts. 

Trust instruments sometimes contain clauses that state that the Trustee of the trust is under no duty to account to any beneficiaries.  Other (limited) accounting clauses provide the trustee with complete discretion to determine whether he/she should account to beneficiaries. These clauses were presumably placed into the agreement by the trust settlor (person who set up the trust) so as to maintain the secrecy of the financial affairs of the trust, and to eliminate the administrative burdens on the trustee if required to account.   

Most modern trust instruments will contain an independent paragraph that obligates the trustee of the trust to account to the beneficiaries once per year.  This accounting will provide the beneficiaries with information on the types and amounts of property held by the trust, income earned, and expenses incurred by the trust.  This will help the beneficiaries determine whether the trust has been managed in their best interests. Most estate planning lawyers will recommend or automatically include an accounting provision in trust, absent some of the interests described above.  

In the instance that the trust relieves the trustee from any duty to account, beneficiaries are not left completely in the dark as to the financial affairs of the trust.  Massachusetts Courts have established the basic principal that trustees of a trust have a duty to account for trust property and can be compelled to do so upon request to Court that has proper jurisdiction.  Massachusetts Courts have held that any trust clauses that relieve trustees of accounting duties are against public policy.  Therefore, trust beneficiaries seeking to determine whether a trustee has properly and adequately performed their duties may retain a trust and estate lawyer to request that a Court compel the trustee to account.  Then, the beneficiaries and trust litigation attorney can determine whether the beneficiaries may pursue any other remedies against the trustee for mismanagement of the trust.  

If you are a beneficiary of a trust and a trustee has ignored, stalled, delayed and/or refused to account to you, please contact the Law Office of Stefan Cencarik, PLLC at 781-463-6063. We represent aggrieved trust beneficiaries throughout Eastern Massachusetts.