What are the rules governing a trustee?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What are the rules governing a trustee?

My grandmother had a Will of which my children where the heirs; my ex-husband was the trustee. I recently

found out that he used the money for things like bills, vacations, and possibly for the purchase of a house. My grandmother’s attorney, who has now also passed, told me that my ex-husband would not be able to spend money in that matter. What should or can I do? I also was an heir on the estate. My grandmother passed away 11 years ago and the case ended 6 years ago. My ex-husband left me messages stating that he was left the money. Documents clearly read he is a trustee not an heir.

Asked on January 14, 2019 under Estate Planning, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A trustee has two legal obligations. The first is to follow the terms of the trust--do only do what or spend the money as, the documents establishing the trust indicate. The second is a "fiduciary duty" imposed by law, which is the obligation to be loyal to the beneficiary and to not benefit yourself at the beneficiaries' expense (which includes not engaging in "self dealing," or taking money for yourself from the trust). Based on what you write, he may have violated one or both duties. Your children, if 18 or over, or you on their behalf, if they are minors, may bring a kind of legal action traditionally called an action for an "accounting" (since you make the trustee "account for" how he has managed the trust) in which a court will evaluate the trustee's actions and can order him to do or not do certain things, to repay money he took from the trust for his own benefit, and/or remove him as trustee. Consult with a trusts and estates attorney to better understand this option and how it applies to your specific situation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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