Does California Law Require a Trustee to Give a Copy of the Trust to the Beneficiary?

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Trustees in California have a duty to account to trust grantors and beneficiaries, but whether a beneficiary is entitled to receive a statement or copy of the trust depends on the type of trust in existence and the beneficiary’s standing in the trust. A beneficiary is not entitled to receive statements or trust copies on revocable grantor trusts, but is entitled to receive statements and trust copies on irrevocable trusts.

Grantor Trust

California Trust Code section 16069 states that the trustee is not required to account or provide trust copies to a trust beneficiary of a revocable trust. The reason for this is the grantor of a revocable trust has the right to modify, amend or revoke the trust at any time, and has the right to remove the beneficiary from the trust. As long as the trust is revocable, it is the trust grantor’s private financial document and a trustee will provide information to a beneficiary only on direct order of the trust grantor.

Irrevocable Trust Statements

California trustees have a duty under state statute to keep irrevocable trust beneficiaries reasonably informed of the administration of the trust. Section 16062 of California statutes requires that trustees provide at least an annual statement to all trust beneficiaries entitled to receive income or principal of the trust. Beneficiaries with a current trust entitlement are vested beneficiaries. If a trust beneficiary is not entitled to receive funds until a trigger event happens, such as the death of another person, then the beneficiary is contingent. Beneficiaries that are contingent or not entitled to a current trust benefit will not receive trust statements.

Copy of Trust Agreement

If a vested trust beneficiary requests a copy of the trust or the trust terms, California trust law requires that the trustee deliver this information to the beneficiary upon reasonable request. California trustees are further required to notify trust beneficiaries if certain changes occur that are important to the trust administration, such as a change in trustee. California contingent trust beneficiaries are not entitled to receive copies of the trust agreement or its terms until the beneficial interest vests. Once a beneficiary has a vested interest, he can receive a copy of the trust agreement.

Seek Advice

Trust law is a complicated field. If a trust beneficiary believes he is not receiving entitled information he should consult an attorney experienced in trust law. This is particularly an issue when a trust has an individual trustee as opposed to a professional corporate trustee, since many individual trustees do not have experience in the legal requirements of trust administration.

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