What if a Trustee is Stealing from the Family Trust?

Elder Law and Estate Planning Lawyers Helping Settle Estate Issues

trustee certificationSadly, it happens more often than people realize. A person trusted with the task of managing family assets and funds decides to take advantage of that access. When a trustee steals from the family trust, you might wonder what legal options you have to stop it, but also how to return the funds and assets that were stolen.

In this instance, the law does have protections. The trustee has an obligation to the trust and the beneficiaries of that trust, known as a fiduciary duty. When that duty is breached, there are legal ramifications.

The Legal Duty of the Trustee

A trustee must use their best efforts to meet the terms of the trust and the deceased who set up that trust. That includes managing all assets, distributing them to the beneficiaries, handling expenses and creditors, and ensuring the taxes and wills are sent to probate.

When the acts of the trustee appear to breach this duty, beneficiaries have options. However, to take official legal action, the beneficiaries must have substantial evidence and proof that the trustee is violating this duty. Mistakes are not a breach of duty. Instead, there must be evidence that the trustee is not making legal requirements, acting impartially, using unreasonable judgment, or is willfully ignoring the state’s laws.

The Consequences of Breach of Duty

A breach of duty carries civil consequences. If the trustee is considered in violation of his or her obligation, the civil consequences vary depending on the extent of the violation, the funds stolen, and how the funds were used. Some civil charges that the trustee could face include:

  • Constructive fraud
  • Tort of deliberate omission or alteration of the facts
  • Fines and repayment to beneficiaries
  • Removal as trustee of the trust

How Do You Report a Suspected Breach?

If you suspect that a trustee is breaching his or her duty, you must report it to an investigative agency. You do not need to be a beneficiary of that trust to report him or her, either. Most people are aware of financial abuse, and sometimes agencies may consider your complaint a nuisance or annoyance. Naturally, you must only complain if you have evidence of fraud.

To file a complaint that is heard, it is best that you meet with an estate attorney. An attorney can assess whether the trustee is incompetent or is breaching his or her duty. If a violation is determined, then your attorney can help you take the proper actions against the trustee and the court to protect the trust and beneficiaries associated with that trust.

Speak with a Long Island Estate Attorney

If you suspect that your trust’s trustee is abusing his or her power, or you feel that they have breached an obligation, you must contact an attorney.

We will closely review your case and will work with you throughout the entire process. Don’t delay in calling us. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can assist you with your case. Contact us at 516-605-0625 for a free consultation about your trust issues or request information online.

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