California Trustees can charge reasonable fees for their services. The amount considered reasonable varies depending on the circumstances. Professional fiduciaries typically charge a certain percentage of the total value of the Trust assets (usually around 1%), while layperson Trustees (such as family members) often charge by the hour (typically around $30-$80).
Trustees’ fees also depend on the amount of work it takes to administer the Trust. Some Trusts are more complex than others. If administering the Trust involves selling multiple properties or high-value investing, the Trustees fees will likely be higher than a liquid-asset only Trust in which the Trustee simply distributes funds from an account. If the Trustee prepares an accounting, the fees will be higher than if the beneficiaries waive the accounting.
The bottom line: Trustees can charge reasonable fees for their services, which often includes preparing an accounting. If the beneficiaries believe the Trustee’s fees are unreasonable given the circumstances, it is incumbent upon the beneficiaries to challenge those fees in court by filing a lawsuit. The court will use its discretion in determining whether the Trustee’s fees are appropriate. Unfortunately, the beneficiaries will have to bear their own attorney’s fees and costs. Before deciding to file a lawsuit against the Trustee, the beneficiaries should do a cost benefit analysis to determine whether a lawsuit would be appropriate.