As its name implies, a trust depends on trusting someone. A trustee is someone with an enormous amount of power over assets that are supposed to be managed on behalf of the beneficiaries. This is a big responsibility, and it can be a terrible problem if the trustee acts negligently.
A trust is a way of dividing ownership of property. The trustee takes possession of the property and manages it for the benefit of the beneficiaries. People sometimes set up testamentary trusts that go into effect upon their death, but it is also quite common to form a living trust.
In a typical living trust, a married couple puts their home and financial accounts in the care of a trustee, who manages it for the benefit of the couple and their children. Among other advantages, this kind of trust allows the assets to pass to the children after the deaths of their parents without having to go through the full probate process, which can be slow and expensive. However, a trust can’t achieve its goals if the trustee has conflicted loyalties or otherwise does not manage the property effectively.
Trustees do not have to be lawyers, but they do have a legal duty to the beneficiaries. When they breach this duty through carelessness or intentional wrongdoing, the beneficiaries can take legal action.
Trust litigation is legally complex, and often emotionally difficult, since so many trusts involve multigenerational families. It is important to seek out help from an experienced attorney who knows the law and the procedures that can help, and who also is sensitive to the emotional issues involved.