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Does a trustee always get to decide how money is used? 

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2023 | Trust & Estate Litigation

When assets are put in a trust, a trustee is assigned to oversee it. This is the person who authorizes distributions of money from that trust.

For example, perhaps your parents put money in the trust and left it to you. You have not been named as the trustee, so you have to go through them whenever you want to withdraw money. Does this mean that they are actually in control and they always get to decide how you can use that money or when you can take it out?

It depends on what type of trust has been established

A question to ask here is simply what type of trust was set up and what powers the trustee was given. For example, maybe your parents used a discretionary trust. This does mean that the trustee gets to make all the decisions. It is their discretion that determines when you can take the money out of that fund. You would have to clear everything with them first, and they could deny purchases for things that they didn’t believe were in line with what your parents would’ve wanted.

But many people set up trusts for a specific purpose. Maybe your parents set yours up so that you needed to use it for college tuition. In a case like that, the trustee just has to follow the directions that they were given. They are not the ones deciding that you have to use your money for education. Your parents did that. The trustee is simply following those instructions to the letter.

Needless to say, it is very common for disputes to break out between trustees and heirs who want to use the money in the fund. If you find yourself in this position, be sure you’re well aware of all of your legal options.