What happens if a trustee steals from the trust?

Trusts are among the most powerful estate-planning tools available to individuals, attorneys, and businesses seeking to provide for an orderly, private, cost-effective transfer of assets as part of a comprehensive estate plan. Far too many people think trusts are overly complicated or are only a tool for the rich. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Denver estate planning lawyers often recommend trusts for estates of all sizes because of their many benefits, which include privacy, tax advantages, and a simplified, streamlined estate-settlement process.

But what happens when trustees take advantage of their powers and control over a trust?

Precisely because a trust is permitted to bypass the probate-court process, an untrustworthy trustee can be devastating to heirs and beneficiaries who do not seek timely legal advice from an experienced Denver probate law firm

Using Trusts in Colorado Estate Plans

There are three primary types of trusts used in estate planning:

  • Revocable Living Trust: These are the most common types of trusts used to plan estates and manage and protect assets. Most people name themselves as the trustee in order to retain control over the assets but can name a successor trustee in the event of incapacitation or death. Unlike a Will, you can direct your trustee to continue to manage your assets after your death for the benefit of the beneficiaries instead of distributing the assets to heirs. Because it is revocable, you can terminate or amend the trust agreement at any time during your life.
  • Irrevocable Trust: An irrevocable trust offers some advantages over a revocable trust. But once you transfer the assets to the trust, you cannot remove the assets except in accordance with the terms of the trust agreement. These types of trusts can offer some tax advantages and better protection from creditors. They can also be drafted in such a way as to allow you to benefit from trust income and assets during your lifetime.
  • Special Needs Trust: These trusts are used to hold assets for a disabled person who qualifies for public benefits. Special needs trusts must be carefully drafted to ensure they comply with all federal and state laws. When properly constructed, they allow someone with special needs to benefit from trust assets and income without forfeiting critical government benefits, such as health care.

The primary benefits of using trusts as part of an estate plan are assets held in trust can be transferred privately, while also avoiding the expense and delays of estate settlement through the probate court process. Heirs may also benefit from trust income and assets, without the need to transfer or liquidate the assets, which can offer a number of benefits, including tax advantages and protection from creditors. However, precisely because of their autonomous nature, dishonest trustees can create serious issues for heirs.

Trust Litigation in Denver

Typically a trustee is named in trust documents. Often the initial trustee is the creator of the trust, with a successor trustee named as part of trust formation. Under Colorado law, a trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to manage, preserve, and administer the trust in accordance with trust documents and state and federal law, for the benefit of named beneficiaries. However, trust documents are often ambiguous, or have conflicting directives, often leading trustees to consult with an experienced Denver trust attorney when administering trust duties. Experienced legal help is critical when beneficiaries believe a trustee is acting inappropriately, which may include:

  • Self-Dealing
  • Fraud
  • Failure to report and maintain proper records
  • Improper liquidation of assets
  • Hiding assets
  • Failure to act in the best interest of beneficiaries
  • Incompetence

Because trustees are granted broad powers with little court oversight, consulting an experienced trust litigation attorney in Denver is best done at the earliest stages of trust settlement. Even when settlement goes smoothly, there are many areas where an experienced law firm can protect trustees, as well as beneficiaries. When there are questions of inappropriate behavior, timely legal help is vital. Waiting until suspicions are confirmed, or the court has already made adverse rulings, can negatively impact your ability to impact the outcome.

With over 40 years of experience, the attorneys at Evans Case LLP are some of the most experienced trust attorneys in the Denver area. We are your local advocates, and will relentlessly fight for the welfare of you and your loved one. Seeking experienced legal help as early as possible in the process is the best strategy as it’s likely to be more effective than challenging the existing orders of the court.

If you are dealing with trust issues in Colorado, call 303-757-8300 today to speak to a Denver trust litigation attorney at Evans Case LLP.

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Evans Case is a full-service Denver Law Firm. With more than 110 years of collective experience we are relentless and compassionate advocates for our clients. The deep legal experience and wisdom of our senior attorneys combined with fresh thinking of younger associates ensure the best possible results in each case. Our attorneys understand that the best outcomes are built on thorough understanding, compassion, and respect.

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