Does a Beneficiary Have a Right to See the Trust in Maryland?

When it comes to money and property, people can be very private and discreet.  If you plan to use a trust, you might have concerns about how far the information about the trust and the assets placed in the trust can spread.  If you are the beneficiary of a trust, you might have similar questions about what info you have access to.

In most cases, any named beneficiaries listed on a trust should have access to the document that forms the trust and can see whatever information is on that document.  This means they might be able to find out when it was created, what assets and money were placed in the trust, who the trustee in control of the assets is, and what incomes and benefits they are allowed to draw from the trust.  They will also see any contingencies, such as when the trust ends or who owns the corpus of the trust after it dissolves.

If you want to set up a trust or you are a beneficiary to a trust and have questions about your options, call our Maryland trust and estate lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.

Does a Beneficiary Get Access to the Trust Documents in Maryland?

When a trust is set up, there are documents that need to be executed to transfer ownership of money or property into the trust, give access and control over to the trustee, and set up the incomes and benefits paid to the beneficiary.  Generally speaking, the documents used to set up a trust can be viewed and accessed by any parties involved in the trust.

First, it is important to understand these terms and who these various parties are.  The grantor or donor is the person who sets up the trust by transferring their money or assets into the trust.  That money and assets are what is known as the trust “corpus” or body of the trust.  The trust is then looked after by the trustee – a person or corporation set up to manage the trust – and benefits are paid out to the trust beneficiary.

Trust documents often have complex structures, setting up benefits not only for one generation of beneficiaries but also backup and contingent beneficiaries in case the named beneficiary dies and the benefits need to go to someone else.  Because these rules are important to what rights and benefits the beneficiary gets, they should have to have access to view the rules.

What Information Can the Beneficiary of a Trust See in Maryland?

Because the beneficiary should have access to the documents that created the trust, they will have access to all of the information needed to operate the trust.  In particular, the following pieces of information might be of interest to a beneficiary and should be contained in the paperwork:

What Property is in the Trust

While the trust documents might not contain a full list of all the assets or the exact dollar amounts put into the trust, they will contain some description of what property or assets were put into the trust.

Who the Trustee is

Beneficiaries deserve to know who is administering their trust and who they should deal with if they are having trouble receiving payment, if they want to look at the accounting done on the trust, or if they are being unfairly denied or discriminated against by the trustee.  The trustee generally has what’s known as a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries – an obligation to manage the money and assets in the trust in the beneficiary’s best interests and to ensure that they get paid as the trust requires.  If there are any problems with the trust’s administration, these beneficiaries might have a case against the trustee.  As such, they certainly need to know what individual, bank, or corporation their fight is with.

Who the Other Beneficiaries Are

If you are receiving an income from a trust alongside other people, it should be listed in the documents that create the trust.  This document should also list who the contingent beneficiaries are, i.e., the beneficiaries who are entitled to payments if you become disqualified or pass away.  If there are no contingent beneficiaries, you may want to talk to our Annapolis, MD trust and estate lawyers about what can be done or speak with the original grantor about potentially setting up a backup beneficiary, such as your children or spouse.

When the Trust Ends and What Happens to the Assets

Trust documents usually need to say when the trust stops.  Under Maryland’s Rule Against Perpetuities, there might be restrictions on how long a trust can last but many trusts are designed to end before those restrictions are triggered.  For example, a trust for a minor child might only hold the assets in trust until the child turns 18 or 21, then give them full access.  It is important for beneficiaries to know when their income and benefits will end and whether they will receive the remainder of the trust assets or what else might become of the trust corpus.

What Rights and Information are Available to Beneficiaries of Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts in Maryland

When a trust is set up, the grantor can set it up as a revocable or irrevocable trust.  A revocable trust can be revoked or modified at any time, and the grantor can even take back the assets and keep them, sell them off, or give them directly to the beneficiary.  With an irrevocable trust, they permanently put the assets in trust and have no power to take it back or modify the trust.

What this means for the beneficiaries is that for an irrevocable trust, their rights are set in stone.  For a revocable trust, that is not the case; they could lose their income or benefits at any time if the grantor decides to take them off the trust or take back the assets and end the trust.  As such, beneficiaries of a revocable trust sometimes have weaker rights – though they should still be able to see a copy of the trust document in most cases.

Contingent beneficiaries have even weaker rights than beneficiaries currently receiving benefits from a trust.  First, these beneficiaries only have theoretical rights that kick in if the beneficiary dies or is unable to continue receiving benefits.  Second, with revocable trusts, all beneficiaries’ rights are weaker, especially for a contingent beneficiary.  As such, contingent beneficiaries might not be entitled to see any of the documents involved in a trust, including documents about its management or accounting.

Call Our Maryland Trust and Estate Lawyers Today

For help with your case from our Ellicott City, MD trust and estate lawyers, contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291