Does a beneficiary have a right to see the trust?

It depends on the type of trust and beneficiary

Elissa

By

Elissa Suh

Elissa Suh

Personal Finance Editor

Elissa Suh is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about finance and insurance since 2019, with an emphasis in estate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.

Published September 2, 2021|2 min read

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Beneficiaries have the right to certain information about the trust, which may include seeing the trust document — if the trust is irrevocable, meaning it can't be changed. If you're the beneficiary of a revocable trust, which can be changed, you may not have access to information and details about the trust until the person who created the trust passes away, at which point the trust becomes irrevocable.

Key Takeaways

  • A trust beneficiary is the person who receives the trust assets 

  • If you are the beneficiary of an irrevocable trust then you have the right to know certain details about the trust

  • Trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the trust’s beneficiaries when administering the trust

When the trust is revocable vs. irrevocable

Revocable trust beneficiaries are not necessarily entitled to information about the trust because the trust terms are not set in stone. The person who created the trust, called the grantor, can make changes to their revocable living trust up until they die, and that includes changing who the beneficiaries are. Once the grantor dies and the trust can no longer be changed, a successor trustee will step in to administer the trust and provide information to the trust beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries of a testamentary trust — created through a will — are entitled to information since this type of trust is also irrevocable.

Learn more about revocable vs. irrevocable trusts

Trust beneficiary rights

Trust law varies by state, but here are a few common rights you might have when you’re the beneficiary of a trust:

Information about the trust

The trustee is typically required to give beneficiaries notice of their name and address within a certain time period after the grantor’s death or creation of an irrevocable trust. 

Depending on the state where the trust is administered, beneficiaries may be entitled to a copy of the trust agreement, which is a document that establishes the trust and lays out all of the terms, or only a portion of it that pertains only to how trust assets are distributed to them.

See also: The difference between a beneficiary and trustee

Accounting

  • List of trust property and their market value

  • Liabilities

  • Income and expenses (receipts and distributions)

  • Trustee's compensation

Beneficiaries have a right to receive an accounting of the trust's activities, usually on a yearly basis, but they can also ask for additional statements or waive their right to receive this information altogether (usually by written consent). Remainder beneficiaries, who do not inherit until the current beneficiaries have passed away, may have to request the accounting instead of receiving it automatically.  

Trustee removal

Current and remainder beneficiaries have the right to petition the probate court for a change of trustee if they feel the appointed person is not performing their duties. Beneficiaries can go one step further and sue the trustee who will be held liable for any losses from mismanaged trust assets.

Related article: Can a trustee withdraw money from a trust?

Modify or dissolve the trust

Trust beneficiaries typically have the right to petition the court to change the terms of an irrevocable trust or close the trust under certain circumstances, like when it is not financially feasible to operate. Typically the court will require consent form all trust beneficiaries, including remainder beneficiaries. 

Find out more details about how to dissolve a trust