Discernible Standards of Distribution for a Trustee

When determining how to make distributions to trust beneficiaries, a trustee must act reasonably and in a manner appropriate for the trust he administers. Frequently, a person creating a trust will limit a trustee’s power to make distributions to a beneficiary. The most frequent standards of distribution provide that a beneficiary is entitled to distributions of income and/or principal of a trust to provide for that beneficiary’s health, support, maintenance, and education.

Support and maintenance standards require the trustee to base his decision to make distributions after considering factors such as:

(1) the size of the trust estate;

(2) the beneficiary’s age, life expectancy, and condition of life;

(3) the beneficiary’s present and future needs;

(4) the other resources available to the beneficiary or the beneficiary’s individual wealth; and

(5) the beneficiary’s present and future health, both mental and physical.

The trustee’s obligation to make distributions to a beneficiary requires the trustee to balance the duty to make distributions against the duty to manage the trust prudently and responsibly to preserve it for the beneficiaries’ future support and maintenance.