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Beneficiary Has a Right to an Accounting Despite the Trustee's Return of Funds

Kaylie v. Kaylie, 2023 WL 6395345 (1st Dep’t October 3, 2023)

Can the beneficiary of a trust require a trustee to provide an accounting despite the trustee’s return to the trust of the funds said to have been diverted? In Kaylie v. Kaylie, 2023 WL 6395345 (1st Dep’t October 3, 2023), New York’s Appellate Division, First Department, answered that question in the affirmative, reversing the trial court’s determination that no accounting was necessary under the circumstances.

In Kaylie, a beneficiary of a family trust commenced an Article 77 proceeding in Supreme Court upon learning that trust bank accounts unexpectedly had zero balances. In response, the trustee argued, among other things, that the trust “irrefutably has been made whole by the restoration of those funds, thus obviating any purported need on the part of [the beneficiary] for an accounting of those funds.” The trustee also argued that she had been removed as trustee since the dispute arose, limiting her access to the bank records of the trust. The trial court agreed, holding that since the beneficiary had not “show[n] misappropriation of funds” and the trustee no longer held that position, “the intrusion of an [accounting] is not warranted….”

The Appellate Division disagreed and reversed, in a decision reaffirming the principle that a beneficiary “is entitled to a judicial accounting by reason of the fiduciary relationship between” the beneficiary and the trustee. The court stated: “The fact that respondent has returned the trust’s funds with interest does not affect petitioner’s right to an accounting.”

Takeaway: The Kaylie decision confirms the primacy of a beneficiary’s right to an accounting from the trustee of a trust, even where the trustee has a “no harm, no foul” argument based on the return of funds to a trust and the trustee’s departure as trustee. 

Disclaimer: This advisory should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts of circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer concerning your situation and any specific legal questions you may have.


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