Trusts are common inclusions in California estate plans. Testators might use an incentive trust to help a family member with a history of addiction. They might set aside money in a special needs trust to provide for a family member with a disabling medical condition. They might even create a trust so that their assets will pass to a charity when their children die.
The person who creates and funds the trust names a trustee to carry out their wishes. Unfortunately, not every trustee deserves the position that they hold. Some trustees might let their personal feelings about beneficiaries affect how they manage a trust or distribute its assets. Others might even misappropriate trust funds or deny reasonable and appropriate distribution requests from beneficiaries.
How can a beneficiary hold a trustee accountable for their questionable trust management?
The California Superior Courts can intervene in a trust dispute
As the beneficiary of a trust, you have certain rights. When a trustee won’t communicate with you or refuses to make distributions in accordance with the trust documents, you may need to ask for help. The California Superior Courts can review and rule on numerous different trust issues.
As the beneficiary of a trust, you can ask the courts for help, provided that the trust is not revocable. The courts can help you determine if the trust is valid and what instructions it provides for the distribution of assets.
If the trust is not specific enough about who receives what property and when, the courts can help determine those details. In cases where the trustee does not cooperate with the beneficiaries, the courts can intervene and require that the trustee provide information about assets in the trust. The courts can even remove a trustee or appoint a new trustee if the current one resigns.
In cases where beneficiaries believe the trustee made mistakes that had financial consequences, the courts could hold the trustee responsible for those losses. Any major dispute that a beneficiary cannot quickly resolve with the trustee may require litigation.
Navigating trust issues requires knowledge of the trust and the law
Probate documents like trusts often include dense legal language that may confuse laypeople. It is important that beneficiaries make sure they understand the terms of the trust and their rights under the law before taking an issue to court.
Learning about how to address issues with a trustee’s behavior or other problems with an estate trust can help you advocate for yourself as a beneficiary.
Trust and estate litigation requires a skilled and experienced attorney that understands this intricate and often complex area of law. If you have a trust and will dispute, please contact Hart Kienle Pentecost, Managing Partner, Andrew Kienle at 714-432-8700 or [email protected] to arrange your consultation.