San Jose, CA asked in Probate for California

Q: Can an "institutional trustee" require a beneficiary to sign a release to hold them harmless of any claims

partial distribution check arrived with receipt and release form to sign releasing the trustee from any claims and liabilities in administration of trust Is that legal? CALIF

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1 Lawyer Answer
Bruce Adrian Last
Bruce Adrian Last
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Pleasant Hill, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Dear San Jose:

A trustee cannot make a distribution contingent on your signing a release. However, they may ask for one and many institutional trustees and private fiduciaries do so a part of normal business practice.

A receipt is a different matter and are routinely requested for the Trustee's records. While I consider it poor form, it is not uncommon to combine a release and receipt. (My preference is to have them as separate documents, so that there is less confusion later over whether or not the release was "knowingly and voluntarily" entered into.

If you have any concerns over their form, you could simply acknowledge the receipt of the distribution in a letter to the Trustee. No need to get fancy, something as simple as "I received the check from the NAME OF TRUST in the amount of AMOUNT" will suffice.

If you have any questions or concerns about how the Trust is being administrated or your rights in the trust, you should discuss them with an attorney. If you don't know how to find one, try your local county bar association. Most run a referral service where, for a low or no fee, you receive a consultation with an attorney in your area of need.

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