It is understandable why beneficiaries would want to keep proper accounting of the trusts they are named in. Meanwhile, some trustees may not always like that the beneficiaries are asking to be more involved, potentially reading this as distrust or meddling.
With a revocable living trust, the beneficiaries only become vested beneficiaries upon the death of the trustee. They are not automatically entitled to view the trust until this time, as the trustee is allowed to update the trust and its beneficiaries at any time before their death.
The rights of beneficiaries of an irrevocable trust are different, however. With an irrevocable trust, the heirs and beneficiaries have the right to have a copy of the trust at any time.
Who Is and Isn’t Entitled to a Copy of the Trust?
Those who are named as direct beneficiaries may be entitled to a copy of the trust. A direct beneficiary is someone who is present and immediately sees the benefit or distribution of the assets from the trust.
A contingent beneficiary or a presumptive beneficiary may not be automatically entitled to own a copy of the trust. Those who only gain access to the trust after a certain condition has been met (death of the trustee, for example) are contingent or presumptive beneficiaries. The rights of these beneficiaries vary.
How Does a Beneficiary Ask for the Trust?
A trust beneficiary may request a copy of the trust at any time. If they are entitled to viewing the trust’s details and obtaining a copy of their own, the trustee may then provide one at this time.
A legal heir or named beneficiary is entitled to view the trust after the death of the trust’s settlor.
While trusts and estate planning can be complicated work, the matter of asking for a trust is simple: you simply ask. If you learn that you are a vested beneficiary, you may write directly to the trustee and state your legal right to view a copy of the trust.
What Happens if the Trustee Denies the Beneficiary the Right to See the Trust?
If the trustee denies the beneficiary the right to obtain a copy of the trust, then the beneficiary may threaten to take them to a court or reach out to an estate planning attorney for assistance. If you are indeed a named beneficiary, the courts will usually grant beneficiaries the right to see the trust.
If you’ve been denied the right to view the trust, speak with an estate planning lawyer. They may be able to evaluate whether you have sufficient ground to file a petition to the court, forcing the issue.