Fundamental to trust law, a trustee is always under a duty to give information to a beneficiary. So when must the trustee provide accounting? Most states have enacted statutes specifically dealing with this duty to account. In Florida Fla. Stat. 736.0813 provides that a trustee shall provide a trust accounting to the trust beneficiaries at least annually and on the termination of the trust.
The trustee has a whole year to operate as trustee without being required to provide an accounting to the beneficiaries. But, the trustee must provide an accounting annually. This accounting is the primary method a beneficiary can hold a trustee accountable. Without an accounting, a beneficiary is virtually powerless and at the mercy of the trustee.
Many have asked the question – exactly when is the accounting due? While none of the trust statutes specify a specific time frame when the accounting is due once a year has elapsed, common sense would suggest that a trustee has a reasonable amount of time to provide the accounting.
When must the trustee provide accounting? In my opinion, a reasonable amount of time would approximately 90 days from the close of the accounting period. This provides the trustee sufficient time to gather up the final month’s information and assemble the actual trust accounting.
What if the trustee does not provide the trust accounting? I would suggest that you write to the trustee shortly after the accounting period is up to request an accounting. If the trustee fails or refuses to provide an accounting, you may be justified in arguing that the trustee has committed a breach of fiduciary duty and even a fraud and should at the very least, be removed for intentionally refusing to provide the accounting.
If the accounting is not forthcoming a beneficiary can compel the accounting by filing a lawsuit for an accounting. I strongly urge trust beneficiaries to be vigilant in monitoring the trustee and making sure a timely accounting is provided.