Lessons for Trustees and Beneficiaries Part I – What is a Trust and Who Has to Know About it?

What is a Trust?

A Trust is a legal document that sets out the rules for the transfer of property (Ie. When the property will be distributed, How much, To whom, etc.). The person who creates the trust and is seeking to transfer his property is called the Settlor or Grantor.  The person who holds onto the property is called a Trustee and the person who is to benefit from the property is the Beneficiary. 

Who Has to Know About a Trust?

According to Ohio Law, unless the Trust says otherwise, a Trustee must keep all current beneficiaries of a Trust informed about the administration of the Trust.  If a beneficiary requests a copy of the Trust Instrument, the Trustee must provide it.  Moreover, if the Trust is an irrevocable Trust created after January 1, 2007 or a revocable trust that became irrevocable after January 1, 2007, the Trustee must notify the beneficiaries of the Trust’s existence, the identity of the settlor, the right of the beneficiary to request a copy of the trust and the right to a copy of the trustee’s report within 60 days of the trust becoming irrevocable.  In addition, a Trustee must send to current beneficiaries, and to all beneficiaries that request it, at least annually and at the termination of the trust, a report of trust property, liabilities, receipts and disbursements.

What Happens When the Settlor Dies and a Revocable Trust Become Irrevocable?

During the life of the Settlor, a Trustee only owes duties to the Settlor.  However, when a Revocable Trust become irrevocable at the death of the Settlor, the Trustee has a duty to inform the beneficiaries as mentioned above. 

 Whether you are a Trustee or Beneficiary, lack of knowledge of your responsibilities or rights can be costly.  Consider consulting a trust administration attorney for guidance.

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