I was recently asked what the ramifications are for a trustee unduly prolonging a trust administration. The answer is that the legal ramifications will depend upon the circumstances. There is no set period of time during which the administration of a trust must be completed unless it is set forth in the trust document itself. If an estate tax return is due, it must be filed within 9 months after the date of death unless it is extended by filing an application with the IRS. There are also rules regarding giving notices of the administration to heirs and agencies. But there are not hard and fast rules dictating when the trust administration must be completed. At the same time, the trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to complete the trust administration within a “reasonable” period of time. What is reasonable depends entirely upon what needs to be done and how long it should take to reasonably conclude the work.
In the interim, beneficiaries have a right to receive a copy of the trust document and to receive information about its ongoing administration. [California Probate Code Sections 16061, 16064 and 17200(b)(7)]. If the failure to conclude the administration is sufficiently egregious, the court can be asked to instruct the trustee to get it done, and/or to remove the trustee and replace him/her with someone who will conclude the administration in a timely manner. And in some cases, if the delay has caused financial harm to the estate, the trustee can be held liable for those losses.
Before any action is taken, I suggest that you speak to the trustee to express your concerns before you get attorneys involved.
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