Have you just learned that you are the beneficiary of a California trust or an heir of someone else’s estate? If so, you may have questions as to the logistics of inheriting money or property from another individual. Perhaps you have concerns about paying inheritance or estate tax. In some cases, a probate dispute can arise as to who the rightful heir should be, or between beneficiaries. When trust and estate litigation arises, it is essential that you hire a skilled lawyer to represent your interests.
Beneficiaries and Heirs Benefit From Hiring Their Own Lawyers
Every person with an interest in the estate benefits from having a lawyer on his or her side. Under California probate law, trustees are responsible for carrying out the trust agreement. They owe the beneficiaries a fiduciary duty to manage the trust on the beneficiaries’ behalf. While trustees have a duty to make decisions with the best interest of the beneficiaries in mind, they do not always fulfill their fiduciary duties.
For example, let us say that you discover that you are one of three beneficiaries to trust with $3 million dollars in assets. The trustee informs you that you and the other beneficiaries are entitled to an equal portion of the trust assets. You are excited that you will receive $1 million dollars. You call the trustee’s attorney and ask all of your questions and end the phone conversation happy with your situation.
Many beneficiaries assume that the trustee’s attorney represents their interests. This is not the case, however. The trustee’s attorney only represents the interests of the trustee. While the trustee’s attorney should be able to give trust beneficiaries preliminary information about the trust. However, the trustee’s attorney does not have a duty to the beneficiaries.
When Would a Beneficiary Benefit From Hiring a Lawyer?
Beneficiaries usually benefit from hiring a lawyer to represent their best interests, especially when a significant amount of assets are at stake. Several different issues can arise regarding the trust beneficiary. The issue can be as simple as you not getting the information you need from the trustee. Or a legal dispute can arise between the trustee and the beneficiaries.
We Fight for Beneficiary Rights in Sacramento
Some beneficiaries of trustees are subject to abusive practices. California law imposes strict requirements on trustees. Sometimes trustees violate the rights of beneficiaries by failing to manage their role as a trustee. Trust beneficiaries have the right to a complete copy of the trust, any amendments, and any written instructions that can impact the distribution of the assets. Beneficiaries also have the right to contest the trust and any of the trust provisions or amendments. There are time limits when it comes to contesting the trust or any of its provisions. If you need to challenge the trust, it is essential to speak to a skilled estate and trust lawyer as soon as possible because there are time restraints when it comes to filing challenges.
Beneficiaries also have a right to be informed about the administration of the trust. Trustees have a legal duty to provide the beneficiaries an accounting of the trust’s finances. Should a beneficiary object to the accounting, he or she has the right to challenge the accounting by seeking judicial review of it. California beneficiaries have the additional following rights:
- The right to compel a trustee to administer the trust according to the trust agreement
- The right to receive impartial and fair treatment from the trustee
- The right to petition a judge to suspend or replace the trustee
- The right to seek remedies against a trustee who has engaged in fraud or financially irresponsible acts
- The right to receive distributions in a timely manner according to the trust
Lawyers Defending California Heirs
Heirs are those who are entitled to a decedent’s property when they die without a will. In California, those who die without a will die intestate. California probate courts distribute their property according to the California Probate Code. Once the debts of the estate are paid off, the court will distribute the remaining assets among the legal heirs.
The California Probate Code requires that the court send notice to all heirs that the probate process has begun. Seeking the assistance of a skilled Sacramento probate lawyer is essential. The notice must be written and must provide the time and place in which the hearing will take place. We recommend reaching out to a lawyer when you receive notice that you are an heir.
Legal Issues Involving Sacramento Heirs
The process of determining heirs is not always straightforward. The most common disputes involving heirs have to do with who is considered an heir under the law. In some cases, stepchildren and children born outside of the marriage seek to inherit as heirs to the estate. Under California probate law, stepchildren who the deceased did not legally adopt can inherit when he or she can prove that the deceased would have adopted the stepchild had it been legally possible.
Likewise, children born outside of a marriage may have a right to inherit under California’s intestate laws. However, they must prove that their deceased parent acknowledged them and provided them financial support. Those fighting for the right to be considered an heir often experience opposition from other heirs to the estate. Proving that you are an heir is a fact-based process that requires submitting evidence on your behalf. Working with an experienced and assertive attorney can help you prove that you are indeed an heir.
If You are a Beneficiary or Heir, We can Help You
The surprise of learning that you are a trust beneficiary or heir can quickly fade when legal issues arise. Whether you are a beneficiary of a trust or an heir to someone’s estate, it is wise to hire an attorney who will represent your best interests. Contact The Law Office of Daniel Hunt as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help you.