The Uniform Trust Code’s qualified-beneficiary concept confuses yet another court

Charles E. Rounds, Jr. - Suffolk University Law School
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Trustees have always been accountable in equity to the holders of the vested and contingent equitable property interests that are incident to the trust relationship. They still are. Thus, a trustee has an affirmative duty to furnish each beneficiary with all information that he would need to protect/defend his equitable property rights (“critical information”). The UTC creates two classes of beneficiary, qualified and non-qualified, the former presently ascertainable, the latter not, and then saddles trustees with an additional affirmative duty to supply the qualified ones with non-critical information relating to the “day-to-day affairs of the trust.” See UTC §103, cmt. For more detail and discussion see §6.1.5.1 of Loring and Rounds: A Trustee’s Handbook (2022), which section is reproduced in its entirety in the appendix immediately below. Now comes In the matter of the Colecchia Family Irrevocable Trust, [https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2021/11/29/r20P0224.pdf], Mass. Appeals Court, No. 20-P-224, 11/29/2021. The subject of the litigation was an irrevocable, income-only/use-only trust under which the equitable property rights of remaindermen had vested ab initio. The fiduciary-disclosure issue was as follows: Were trustees accountable to the remaindermen during the lifetimes of the current beneficiaries? The Court’s holding: They were not. We disagree. First, equitable non-possessory property rights in the remainder in corpus had vested ab initio. Second, the trustees had had a background overarching enforceable equitable duty to act in the interests of all beneficiaries, not just the current ones. See Massachusetts UTC §105(b)(2).

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