How to Address a Beneficiary in a Letter

By Elizabeth Stock

A trust is a legal document created for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. If you are the acting trustee of a trust, you have several duties to fulfill. For example, you must manage the trust as stipulated by the grantor, and you must ensure the trust fulfills its intended purpose. In the course of your role as trustee, several situations may arise in which it may be necessary for you to address a beneficiary in a letter.

Beneficiary Defined

A beneficiary is a person or entity, such as a charity, that has a current or future right to receive property or cash distributed from the trust, according to terms spelled out by the grantor. The trust document will state the names of the beneficiaries, who may be individuals or organizations. A beneficiary has several rights, including the right to receive a copy of the trust document and the right to hold the trustee accountable if he acts negligently while serving as trustee.

Duties and Role of Trustee

The role of the trustee is an important one. He is responsible for ensuring that the trust is administered in accordance with the grantor's wishes. The trustee owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiary to act in the trust’s best interest. In addition, the trustee also has a duty to communicate with beneficiaries regarding the status of the trust.

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Reasons to Contact a Beneficiary

While administering the trust, a trustee may contact a beneficiary for a number of reasons. For example, if the purpose of the trust is to fund the beneficiary’s college education, the trustee may contact the beneficiary from time to time to request financial information or to make sure that the trust is adequately financing the beneficiary’s educational needs. Another duty of the trustee is to provide an accounting of the trust to the beneficiaries. The trustee may contact the beneficiary to provide this information annually.

Proper Form of Address

A beneficiary should be addressed in a letter in the same manner as any other professional person. The letter should be addressed to the beneficiary, using her title and full name. Begin the salutation with the word “dear” and then state all relevant issues in a concise and clear manner. Avoid using legal terms that average individuals may have difficulty understanding. Conclude the letter with information about how to contact you if necessary regarding any of the issues mentioned in the correspondence.

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Roles of a Trustee

A trustee manages property for beneficiaries according to the terms of a trust. Generally, a trustee is appointed by a person, called a grantor or settlor, who establishes and funds the trust. The settlor transfers legal title of assets to the trustee so she may manage and distribute them for named beneficiaries. A trustee's role includes responsibly and honestly handling trust assets and ensuring the purpose of the trust is carried out.

Enforcing a Trust

A trust is a legal relationship in which a trustee holds property for beneficiaries, who are the individuals benefiting from the trust. The trustee must abide by the terms of the trust to manage property and distribute it to the beneficiaries. The person who creates a trust is known as the settlor, or grantor. The settlor can also serve as the trustee, naming a successor trustee who will take over for him following his death. Alternatively, the settlor can name someone else to serve as the trustee at the time he creates the trust. A trustee owes certain duties to the beneficiaries -- and the beneficiaries have a right to enforce the terms of the trust and hold the trustee in breach of his duties if he is performs any wrongful acts or omissions that affect their interests.

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