The Trustee’s Duty to Inform and Account
The trustee is the person with legal title to trust assets; however, the trust beneficiaries are the true owners of the trust assets. The trustee has a legal duty to inform and to account to the beneficiaries and the trust beneficiaries are entitled to inspect all documents and papers relating to the trust. The existence of a legal duty is important because it gives beneficiaries rights and remedies and exposes a trustee to liability for breach of those duties.
In Florida, the trustee’s duty to inform and to account is found in the Florida Statutes (Florida Trust Code) at §736.0813, which states that the trustee shall keep the qualified beneficiaries of the trust reasonably informed of the trust and its administration. This duty includes notifying the beneficiaries of the trustee’s name and address, notifying the beneficiaries of an irrevocable trust that the trust exists and that they have certain rights, providing a copy of the trust instrument upon request, providing a trust accounting (F.S. §736.08135), and disclosing assets and liabilities.
All too often, this office is contacted by beneficiaries who have no idea what is going on with the administration of a trust and the trustee refuses to provide the information requested, even after the demand for accounting has been filed with the courts. Sometimes it is because there is a contentious relationship and the trustee is being spiteful, but sometimes it is because the trustee is trying to hide misappropriation or mishandling of trust assets. If you are the beneficiary of a trust and have not received full disclosure from the trustee, you should contact a skilled trust attorney to protect your rights and to compel a trustee to perform his or her duties.