As our series continues, we will identify the class of people who can bring trust claims and highlight some of the warning signs that commonly lead to trust disputes. These indicators apply to trustees and trust beneficiaries throughout Texas. For example, we regularly see these disputes arise in Dallas County, Tarrant County, Collin County, Denton County, Harris County, Bexar County, and Travis County.
Our previous post helped beneficiaries understand how trusts work. We recommend that you read this post before proceeding. It is important for Texas trust beneficiaries to achieve a basic understanding of what trusts are and how they work. Now let’s put that knowledge to use.
If you want to dispute a trust, you must start with a valid legal claim. This article will discuss who can bring a trust claim and what signs suggest there may be a trust dispute. This series focuses on claims made by trust beneficiaries. Importantly, trustees have the power and often the duty to make other types of trust claims. Those types of claims will be discussed in a separate series.
Dallas Area Beneficiaries and Their Representatives Have the Right to Bring Trust Claims Against the Trustee
Texas law provides trust beneficiaries with a large set of rights related to trusts. Trust disputes arise when a beneficiary tries to enforce those rights. Not all people involved in a trust are beneficiaries, though, and only certain beneficiaries have immediate rights. The first hurdle to making a trust claim is proving you are one of these people.
Simply put, a trust beneficiary is a person who is entitled to receive the trust property, either right now or sometime in the future. If a trust is created for your benefit before any other people receive those benefits, you are a primary beneficiary. If you are named in a trust, but you cannot receive trust funds until someone else dies, you are a contingent beneficiary. Primary beneficiaries enjoy many immediate rights, even if they do not have immediate access to trust funds. Contingent beneficiaries may have the same rights, depending on the specific terms of the trust.
A beneficiary’s representative may also assert the beneficiary’s rights. Parents of minor children have the right to bring their children’s trust claims, unless a family court has taken away those rights. Many powers-of-attorney grant the ability to make trust claims. Certain types of guardians can make trust claims for the people they care for. If a mentally disabled person does not have a guardian, a “next friend” may be able to bring trust claims for the disabled person.
For example, you may hold a power-of-attorney that grants the power to make financial decisions on behalf of your mother, who is the beneficiary of a family trust. Depending on the terms of the power of attorney, you can make trust claims for your mother. In fact, you may be obligated to do so.
If you care for a trust beneficiary or represent a trust beneficiary, and you suspect that there may be a trust claim, we recommend you speak with a trust lawyer to protect yourself and the person you care for.
Texas Trust Beneficiaries Should Beware of Warning Signs that Lead to Trust Disputes
Trust beneficiaries should familiarize themselves with the warning signs for a trust dispute. Like a storm on the horizon, these signs indicate that a trust dispute is brewing. If you recognize any of these signs, you may need to speak with a Texas lawyer before it’s too late.
–Reduced Payments. You usually receive the same amount of money from a trust every month. Suddenly, you receive a reduced payment, or the payments completely stop. This could mean that you have a trust claim.
–Radio Silence. Silence is an important clue that may lead to a trust claim. Perhaps the trustee used to talk to you, but now refuses. You ask about your trust rights, but nobody will speak to you at all. Silence is smoke. A trust lawyer can help tell you if there’s a fire.
–Lawyered Up. You already know you are a trust beneficiary. Usually, the trustee communicates with you themselves, but now they’re telling you to speak with their lawyer. Or you may suspect you are a trust beneficiary, but lawyers are the only people who will speak with you. This is another sign you may have a trust claim.
–Sign the Papers. Someone pushes a pile of papers into your lap. Little flags poke out, telling you to SIGN HERE. You see words like “waiver” and “release.” Someone assures you, it’s just legalese, merely a formality. They say, if you want to receive any money, then you must sign. You should listen to the alarm bells, proceed with caution, and talk to a trust lawyer about your options.
Ultimately, a trust dispute depends on the specific rights that a beneficiary tries to enforce and the specific duties that a trustee may be breaching. Those topics will be discussed in more detail in the next post of this series.
If you notice any of these warning signs, you may wish to speak to a Texas trust attorney. The attorneys at The Johnson Firm can help you decipher the smoke signals and identify potential claims. We stand ready to help residents of North, South, Central, East, and West Texas.