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Does Trustee have a fiduciary obligation to disclose POD/TOD accounts to beneficiary?

Sacramento, CA |

I understand there is no obligation for a Trustee to answer financial questions while a Trust is revocable however the Trustee used this time to locate multiple POD/TOD accounts and quickly drain them of assets (not close them) when death was anticipated shortly. The major account was in the name of the Decedent, no mention of the Trust POD to the named beneficiary. When the trust became irrevocable all POD/TOD accounts were withheld from asset lists and might have stayed that way too. Trustee did not react well to my discovery and have since circled the wagons ignoring requests to be kept reasonably informed. Treading carefully. Did Trustee have a duty to disclose? When and to what extent, if any ?

The account owner was Decedent POD to the beneficiary. Trustee name was added to account by virtue of POA and Trustee being the same person. Death was anticipated shortly. The account was emptied one day prior and left off future assets list. Decedent had excellent health insurance and very minor financial or tax liabilities. I am unsure what happened to the money. Trustee claims everything is in order but is overdue to account. Thanks to all who responded.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. There is something missing from your question. Forget that the accounts were for you, who's name was listed as the owner? Im assuming the decedent because you dont have a Trust own POD/TOD accounts. If true, how did the Trustee access those accounts? Did the trust have Power of Attorney? If so, were the funds necessary for the decedent's use.

    I think your instinct are right. Its just a matter of what violation. You need to hire a trust litigation attorney.

    The general advice above does not constitute an attorney-client relationship: you haven't hired me or my firm or given me confidential information by posting on this public forum, and my answer on this public forum does not constitute attorney-client advice. IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: In order to comply with requirements imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, we inform you that any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.


  2. Mr. Schultz put his finger on the immediate issue - if the POD account(s) were owned by the decedent how were they accessed as POD doesn't "kick in" until death. I assume they were mishandled under a POA - is the trustee the same person as the POA? You have options but it is likely a question of whether it is abuse of the POA on those accounts or a trust issue.

    This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website: http://www.stevenzelinger.com/


  3. The real question is more along the lines of whether the Trustee violated any fiduciary duties, either to the decedent, or the beneficiaries. If the trustee appropriated trust funds -- or funds that should have been in the trust, there is certainly a problem.

    The information above should not be considered legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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