Generally, trustees have a duty to keep trust beneficiaries reasonably informed about the trust and its administration, provide annual accountings to the trust beneficiaries, and, upon request, provide beneficiaries with information about trust matters, including assets, liabilities, the acts of the trustee and the terms of the trust.
These notice obligations begin, unsurprisingly, with the death of the person who created the trust (called the “settlor” or “trustor”). As specified in California Probate Code Section 16061.7, within 60 days of the trustor’s death, the trustee must notify the trust beneficiaries and the legal heirs of the trustor and advise them that they may request a copy of the trust documents. After receiving the mailed notice, the recipient has 120 days from the date of mailing to file a trust “contest” (a challenge to the validity of the trust). If no contest is filed within a 120 days, then the notified recipients may forfeit their right to file a contest. If the trustee fails to provide the required notice, the statute of limitations in which a trust contest could be filed is much greater.
The law sets forth in great detail the information that the trustee needs to provide in the notice, which must be delivered personally or sent by mail to the recipient’s last known address. The notice must set forth:
- The identity of the settlor or settlors of the trust and the date of execution of the trust instrument;
- The name, mailing address and telephone number of each trustee of the trust;
- The address of the physical location where the principal place of administration of the trust is located, pursuant to Section 17002;
- Any additional information that may be expressly required by the terms of the trust instrument;
- A notification that the recipient is entitled, upon reasonable request to the trustee, to receive from the trustee a true and complete copy of the terms of the trust.
Additionally, most notices must include a warning, set out in a separate paragraph in at least 10-point boldface type that states as follows
“You may not bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date this notification by the trustee is served upon you or 60 days from the date on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to you during that 120-day period, whichever is later.”
The notice requirements that mark the start of a trustee’s fiduciary responsibilities are just one of a number of obligations that fall on the trustee’s shoulders after the death of a trustor. Trustees should consult with an experienced California trust administration lawyer to fully understand their role and their duties and to ensure that they are in compliance with their legal and fiduciary obligations.
Yee Law Group, PC: Sacramento/Roseville Estate & Trust Administration Law Firm
At Yee Law Group, PC, we have extensive experience counseling clients through the nuances of trust administration, including advising trustees on their reporting and notice obligations from day one. If you have questions or require assistance with estate or trust administration, we can provide responsive, accessible, and plain-spoken counsel. Please give us a call at (916) 599-7297 to discuss your issues and concerns.