What are my rights as a beneficiary of a trust?

Dear Ms. Allison: My family has refused me my inheritance left to me by one of my uncles and possibly my grandfather as well. What can I do to find out what both of their Trusts say? My other uncle and I have never gotten along and he is the head of my dead uncle’s Trust. He also was given control over my grandmother’s things that were supposed to come to me from my uncle’s Trust. My family said that out of everything only my stuff was not able to be located. Also, before he died, my grandfather told me he left things to me and I believe I’m being lied to by my father and my uncle about what my grandfather’s Trust says. My uncle always has an excuse (“I can’t find it.” “I don’t have the time to find it.”). I want to know what my rights are to see my passed away uncle’s and grandfather’s Trusts. I believe I’ve been stolen from. I also believe my uncle forced my grandmother to change things with threats of a nursing home. She has said on many occasions that she didn’t want to go to a home. Where would she even get that idea? Her lawyer refused to do what my uncle wanted him to do without my dad present. We learned that this uncle also mailed letters to all the family except for my dad, mom, sister, and myself. This seems like I’ve been cheated. Well, all of us. RR, Southwestern Oklahoma

Dear RR:

You can sue trustees and executors who don’t give you your rightful gift from the decedent. Most beneficiaries don’t realize that many family members named to settle an estate or trust often do a terrible job of it! Sometimes, that’s from meanness and sometimes ignorance. Frequently, it is simple theft. The only way I know that you can nip it in the bud is to hire the very best estate and trust lawyer you can afford. That is the rotten part. It costs money. You will be damaged by the awful fiduciary. Regardless, whether the problem is a horrible job or that theft is involved, if the amount is significant enough, you can sue for the inheritance and your damages as well.

If you sue, the court may require you to try mediation first. Estate mediation is where all the parties meet with a neutral mediator to work out an agreement to settle their disputes, privately, out of court. Everyone shares the costs of mediation. You can wait for the court to require it, or your family can initiate the effort. Mediation is known to preserve family relationships and get the matter fixed faster than a court can and for a lot less cost in fees. There are lots of skills among mediators, so you would be best off hiring an estate and trust mediator to settle the matter. It works!

I handle these things all the time, so if I can help you in this matter, let me know.

To your success, Gale Allison

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