If you are a trustee or trust beneficiary, you may want to know more about discretionary and mandatory trust distributions. You might have questions about how often the trustee needs to make distributions and in what amounts. It is important to get answers to these questions so that the trust functions properly, as the settlor intended.
What Are Trust Distributions?
To help the trust beneficiary, the trust’s settlor permits the trustee to make periodic distributions from the trust. The settlor decides on which language to include in the trust document regarding distributions. For example, the settlor could choose to allow distributions on a regular schedule, distributions if certain events happen, or discretionary distributions at the trustee’s option. Read the trust document to determine which kinds of distributions apply for a particular trust.
What Are Mandatory Trust Distributions?
Some trusts require trustees to make mandatory distributions. These distributions might take place every month or every year. Often, a trust requires distribution of a percentage of the interest earned on trust assets during the year. Or the trust might list a specific amount of money or property to be distributed. Sometimes, mandatory distributions must happen after certain triggering events. These could include a significant birthday (turning 18 or 21, for example) or marriage.
Trustees must make mandatory distributions described in the trust document. If they do not, they could face legal liability for breaching their fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries.
What Are Discretionary Trust Distributions?
In contrast, trustees do not have to make discretionary trust distributions. They get to decide when it is appropriate to distribute money from the trust (interest or principal) to the beneficiaries. Maybe the trust assets do not earn much interest in a particular year, so the trustee decides not to make a distribution. Or a beneficiary runs into hard times and the trustee decides that a distribution would help him out. Trustees need to be careful, however, not to favor any one beneficiary over the others. They also need to carefully track distributions over time. Finally, trustees or beneficiaries with questions about distributions should seek legal advice.
Need help with a trust or will? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.