Inventories and Accountings
The primary method of oversight of Personal Representatives and Trustees is the Accounting.
If you are the beneficiary of an estate or trust, then you probably want to make sure that the Personal Representative or Trustee is doing things right. If you are the Personal Representative or Trustee, then you probably want to assure the beneficiaries that you are acting appropriately. Thus oversight of estates and trusts is an important part of their administration.
This oversight is commonly done through the accounting. An accounting is simply a document listing all of the income and expenditures of the estate or trust. Prior to the first accounting, an inventory must be taken to set the starting point. In order to be able to generate an accurate accounting, the fiduciary must keep careful records of all transactions. Recreating these records later on can be difficult and expensive, if not impossible.
Prior to the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, Executors of estates were required to file inventories and accountings. Now they are not required automatically, but interested persons may compel them through the court. Whether compelled by the court or not, it is often a good practice to generate inventories and accountings.
When an accounting is provided to the court, the Personal Representative may petition for its allowance. This involves a legal proceeding, where notice is served and interested parties have the opportunity to object. If objection is made, the court will listen to those involved, and weigh their concerns.
Trusts are not automatically subject to the Probate Court. Instead, the terms of a trust usually require that the Trustee provide an accounting directly to the beneficiaries. If a beneficiary objects, then they have the right to seek recompense, either privately with the Trustee, or through the Probate Court.