Q: Probate, Trusts and an Un-trust worthy executor
My uncle died in Aug 19 leaving his assets divided into 4ths among me, my brother and cousins. My father is the executor and we are estranged. My 25% was put in a trust with my father as the trustee. My father did not tell me of my inheritence I only received life insurance. He seems to be dragging his feet as he filed an extension on inventory despite having it all and has not informed me of the trust. Since hes the trustee I don't think hes broken any fiduciary duty by not informing me. But the fact that he informed me of the insurance and nothing else concerns me.
When should I be looking to obtain legal counsel? How can I protect my interests and ensure I receive my portion?
A: It's sometimes difficult to know how to handle delicate estate situations. As a beneficiary of a trust, you have the right to review the trust itself and receive periodic accountings. I would start there and see what information you get. Hopefully, you will not need to involve the courts in a breach of fiduciary duty/conversion action. Let us know if you need further assistance.
A: You mention an executor, then a trustee. An executor only manages an estate filed in probate court. A trustee manages a trust, which is not under court supervision or management. If your uncle's assets were all in a trust, and not part of his estate in probate court, then all of your inquiries regarding trust assets must be directed to the trustee. Under MD law, a beneficiary of a trust is entitled to review the trust document, and request periodic and reasonable accountings of trust assets. Your right to receive distributions from the trust is governed by the terms of the trust. Removal of a trustee for misconduct can be achieved through court action, but it is not easy. Assets held in the name of an estate, on the other hand, are governed by law and the terms of the will, and are under court supervision. A written inventory and one or more formal accountings must be filed in the estate, and all estate filings are public record. You are entitled to review and copy any document, including the will and accountings, in the estate file, and there is an online portal where you can go to download these documents without having to travel to the courthouse. If the will directs your 25% share of estate assets to be paid into a trust, then you will need to review that language in the will. If the will simply directs you to receive 25% without mention of a trust, then your father may not hold your 25% in trust, but must pay it over to you (unless you are a minor, then other rules apply). If your uncle's assets were partly held in a trust while he was alive, and partly held in his personal name, then only the assets not held in the trust pass under his will, although if it is a "pour over" will, then usually all estate assets are simply distributed to the trust to hold and distribute in accordance with the terms of the trust.
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