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How should a trustee handle complaints by a trust beneficiary?

On Behalf of | Jan 16, 2022 | Trust Administration |

Serving as a trustee can be a thankless job. Even if the trust compensates you for your time, you will likely put in a lot of work that you don’t charge for, to say nothing of the stress you endure in your personal time or the impact your responsibilities may have on your personal relationship.

It is common for trustees to have pre-existing relationships with the beneficiaries of an estate or the person creating it. Those relationships can complicate trust administration and potentially lead to complaints by beneficiaries. How should a trustee handle complaints about their job performance?

Consider the other perspective

Beneficiaries complaining about trust administration may worry about the devaluation of assets or feel like they have received unfair treatment. They may not understand the fiduciary duty of a trustee and fear they will lose their inheritance.  Lending them a sympathetic ear and trying not to take complaints personally can help you better identify the root of their complaints and address it.

Explain your actions or decisions

Have you refused to disburse funds despite repeated requests because the situation doesn’t meet the standards set by the trust? Providing the beneficiary with the language from the trust that has led to the unfavorable outcome can help them understand your decisions.

Document the interaction for your own protection

Beneficiaries who complain about your job performance might later try to challenge you in probate court and remove you from your role as trustee. Keeping records of your actions as you administer the trust and your communications with trust beneficiaries can help protect you against litigation or removal from your position.

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