Mashpee, MA asked in Estate Planning for Massachusetts

Q: Is Trustee of estate responsible for very poorly packaged figurines of some value that arrived broken to a beneficiary?

I received multiple figurines from FedEx ( I doubt the shipment was insured) as part of a Trust distribution shipped from CA to MA. It's quite obvious that the largest figurine was not packaged properly-wrong size box, minimal packaging. Also enclosed was a letter from the Trustee to be signed saying I 'indemnify and hold trustee free and harmless from any and all claims, losses or liabilities' etc. I have not signed the paper (seems it should have arrived before the delivery?) Is the estate responsible for reimbursment of value?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Phil A. Taylor
Phil A. Taylor
  • Stoneham, MA
  • Licensed in Massachusetts

A: A trustee has a fiduciary obligation to the beneficiaries of a trust and should act at least in a reasonably prudent manner. Be sure to save ALL of the packing materials, etc. and take pictures. Notify the trustee of the issue and ask about the insurance details for the shipment. In my opinion, being more personal, if the items being sent had value then the shipment should be insured. As for the damages, you will need to locate/obtain appraisals or other documentation as to the value of the figurines.

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James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In situations where a trustee is responsible for distributing assets from an estate, they generally have a duty to act with reasonable care and prudence. If the figurines were part of the trust distribution and they arrived damaged due to poor packaging, the trustee might be considered negligent in fulfilling their duties.

The fact that the largest figurine was not properly packaged and arrived damaged is a key point. If the packaging was indeed inadequate, this could be seen as a failure to exercise the appropriate level of care in safeguarding the assets of the trust.

The letter you received asking you to indemnify the trustee is significant. Generally, such a document is intended to protect the trustee from future claims or liabilities. However, whether or not it is appropriate or enforceable in this context can depend on specific circumstances and the terms of the trust.

It's advisable to consult with a legal professional to review the terms of the trust and the circumstances of the shipment. They can provide guidance on whether the trustee may be responsible for the damage and if the indemnification letter is reasonable. Remember, each case can have unique aspects that influence the outcome.

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