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Accountings - Trustee as current and sole income beneficiary

My aunt created a trust years ago. She died about 10 years ago and her husband is current trustee and current sole income beneficiary. The other contingent beneficiaries would like an accounting, but the trust states that only the current income beneficiary gets an accounting. Since the income beneficiary is the trustee, does this defeat the purpose of an accounting? How do the contingent beneficiaries get the information they need from the trustee?

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As this Forum has noted elsewhere, as of this past July, Massachusetts now has a new Uniform Trust Code covering most trust and trust administration issues, including those questions you’ve raised. In general, assuming the terms of a trust are lawful (I use that term very broadly), trust provisions will usually govern, rather than the terms of the new Code.

Having said that, the new Code also provides that Trustees shall send an account/report to “qualified beneficiaries” upon request, which is generally interpreted as some form of reasonable notification (best if done in writing). Based on my understanding of the definitions, contingent beneficiaries are considered “qualified.” You did not indicate if anyone has actually made an actual request for an accounting. Is the Trustee/husband refusing to do so and/or are there concerns about misuse of the trust property? Without knowing the specific language of the trust regarding the instructions for providing an accounting, I cannot say for certain whether the Uniform Code’s account/report provisions would govern.

If the assets are sufficient enough and your contingent interests are more likely to vest at some point (however the trust is defining the conditions when you move from a contingent beneficiary to a vested one), and if you have a copy of the trust, it might be worth your while to have an attorney review the terms and assess how the assets are currently being administered by the Trustee based on whatever information you might have. There should be no reason why you or an attorney on your behalf cannot make a reasonable request for an accounting under the Uniform Code unless the trust is very clear about denying contingent beneficiaries that right (which would be at least curious).

I agree with the above analysis.  FYI, the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code defines a “Beneficiary” as a person who has a present or future beneficial interest in a trust, vested or contingent.  Other commentary regarding the Uniform Trust Code in general suggests that the broad category of "Qualified Beneficiaries" includes those who are "next-in-line" and may be entitled to income or principal after the death of the current beneficiaries.  You should discuss this matter with an attorney.

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