Probate Litigation Attorneys
Happy days! You just learned that your favorite uncle appointed you trustee of his trust and nominated you as his executor of his will. The honor (he trusted you enough to install this mantle upon you), the power (you get to make decisions that affect beneficiaries’ lives), the riches (you get an income taxable fiduciary fee)–not so fast! While there is certain honor in taking on that role, the office’s mantle carries tremendous responsibilities and risk.
“Keep in mind – beneficiaries are like cats and they will bite you for no good reason.” Serving as the trustee of a trust can be challenging because a trustee’s administrative responsibilities are, at times, layered with complicated family or beneficiary dynamics. While there is no way to guarantee a problem-free administration or termination of trust, Ohio law provides a method to expedite the process to complete distribution while providing protections for the trustee against future claims of the beneficiaries.
Reprinted from Probate Law Journal of Ohio, with permission of Thomson Reuters. Copyright © 2017.
Years after the initial enactment of the Ohio Trust Code and articles published in this journal1 the Tenth District Ohio Court of Appeals in Zook, et al. v. JP Morgan Chase Bank National Association, et al., 10th Dist. No. 15AP-751, 2017-Ohio-838, conﬁrmed the viability of options under the Trust Code that afford trustees a path to ﬁnality in trust administration not subject to continuing court jurisdiction. Speciﬁcally, the Zook court conﬁrmed what readers of this journal and those familiar with the Trust Code already “know”:
Ten years after the first enactment of the Ohio Trust Code, in Zook, et al. v. JP Morgan Chase Bank National Association, et al., 10th Dist. No. 15AP-751, 2017-Ohio-838, the Tenth District Ohio Court of Appeals gave insight into protections under the Ohio Trust Code afforded trustees against beneficiary claims and a provided a roadmap for a beneficiary to challenge such protection.
Following up on the recent blog post on basic principles of trust reporting, the Fifth District Court of Appeals released a timely analysis involving a trustee’s failure to account and an award of attorney fees against the trustee for their breach of duty in McHenry v. McHenry, (5th Dist.), 2017-Ohio 1534. The decision, originating out of the Stark County Probate Court is significant for two reasons: (1) it provides a thorough analysis of a trustee’s duty to account even in the face of trust language relieving the trustee of his duty to account; and (2) the court awarded attorney fees in excess of the value of the compensatory damages, pursuant to its authority under R.C. 5810.04.
You are a trust beneficiary.
You have no idea what is in the trust, what has been spent out of the trust, and what will be spent out of the trust.
Must the trustee open his books to you? What rights do you have to receive this information?