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Should a trustee provide accounting statements to beneficiaries

San Francisco, CA |

Should a trustee provide accounting statements to beneficiaries, particuarly when the estate is not settled immediately. My mother's estate has not been completely distributed and I, as a beneficiary, have asked the trustee, my brother, for an accounting of income and expenses as well as a distribution list. I found out by accident that the estate paid $16,000 in taxes on income which the estate incurred from dividends and interest, plus penalty for not completing or deposting estimated taxes for two consecutive years. Although I have asked for an accounting report, I either get ignored or I am given pieces of information such as a list of current assets. What I would like is to get complete financial statements such as income/expense statement, and distribution list to date.

I feel that if I was given the financial information, including the information on taxes paid,, I would have insisted that the estate be closed as soon as possible.

Please let me know what my rights as a beneficiary are.

Attorney Answers 1

  1. The answer to your question is that your rights as a beneficiary include the right to receive an accounting. However, you probably do not have the right to receive an accounting more often than annually. To know how often you have to first check the trust instrument and see what it provides. Otherwise, state law limits the timing to once per year. Some of the relevant code sections are printed below for your convenience. You can find the rest of them at If your interest in the estate is quite valuable, e.g., $100,000 or more, then you should retain a lawyer to communicate with the trustee's counsel. There are a great many highly competent such lawyers in San Francisco.

    California Probate Code Section 16060 provides that "The trustee has a duty to keep the beneficiaries of the trust reasonably informed of the trust and its administration."

    California Probate Code Section 16061 provides that "Except as provided in §16064, on reasonable request by a beneficiary, the trustee shall provide the beneficiary with a report of information about the assets, liabilities, receipts, and disbursements of the trust, the acts of the trustee, and the particulars relating to the administration of the trust relevant to the beneficiary's interest, including the terms of the trust that describe or affect the beneficiary's interest."

    California Probate Code Section 16062(a) provides "Except as otherwise provided in this section and in §16064, the trustee shall account at least annually, at the termination of the trust, and upon a change of trustee, to each beneficiary to whom income or principal is required or authorized in the trustee's discretion to be currently distributed."

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