Our 2020 Trust & Estate Litigation Department Team
If you have been named as a trust beneficiary, you have legal rights in California. When a person creates a trust, he or she appoints a trustee to manage the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary. As the beneficiary of a trust, you are the person for whom the trust was created. You are the person who will receive money or assets from the trust.
Unfortunately, sometimes California trustees and estate executors abuse their powers. They might try to steal from beneficiaries or fail to make decisions that benefit the trustee. Or, the trustee might make decisions that only benefit him or her and not the beneficiary. In other cases, beneficiaries suspect that the trustee is misappropriating funds that belong to the beneficiaries.
Seeking Legal Help as a Trust Beneficiary
If you are a trust beneficiary in Sacramento who is being taken advantage of by a trustee, you are not alone. At the Law Office of Daniel Hunt, we have helped many clients successfully fight for their rights as a beneficiary. If you have been the victim of an abusive trustee, executor, or conservator, the law protects you. Contact the Law Office of Daniel Hunt as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced lawyers today.
Trustees Owe Beneficiaries a Fiduciary Duty
Under California law, trustees owe their beneficiaries a fiduciary duty. California has many specific timetables and rules that executors and trustees must follow. For example, trustees have a legal duty to notify beneficiaries that they are beneficiaries of a trust. Taking on the role of a trustee is significant and comes with significant duties.
Trustees must manage the property owned by the trust well. They must distribute the property according to the terms of the trust. For example, they cannot decide that one beneficiary deserves less money than the trust provides. Instead, they must distribute the property according to the trust agreement.
When trustees breach their duties to the trustee by mismanaging the trust, not acting for the best interest of the trustee, or otherwise breaching their duty, you as the beneficiary can hold them accountable. The first step to correcting the problem is to speak to an experienced Sacramento trust lawyer. After reviewing the facts of your case, we can create a legal strategy for enforcing your rights as a beneficiary.
Common Ways that Trustees Abuse Their Powers
Abuse of trust beneficiaries happens every day in California. While every case of trustee abuse is unique, there are a few types of abuse that happen frequently. Most cases of wrongdoing involve failure to act in your best interest as a beneficiary, misappropriating funds, or abuse of power. In some cases, trustees are simply grossly incompetent and need to be removed from their position. We can help you ask the court to remove the trustee and appoint another, better-suited trustee.
Refusal to Distribute Assets According to the Trust Agreement
Some of the worst types of abuse of beneficiaries happen when trustees fail to distribute the assets of the trust in a timely manner. The refusal could be blatant. For example, the trust agreement could state that when the creator of the trust dies, the beneficiary should inherit all of the assets in the trust immediately. The trustee could withhold some of the assets in the trust in conflict with the trust agreement.
Refusal to distributes could also involve a trustee allowing someone to live in the house owned by the trust without paying enough rent. If the trust agreement states that you as the beneficiary are entitled to receive the rent payments from the home owned by the trust, you are entitled to the fair market value of the rent. When a trustee does not charge the renter the fair market value, you might have a valid legal claim.
When trusts are complex and own a variety of assets of different types, it can be challenging to know whether or not the trustee is correctly distributing the assets of the trust. In our many years of representing clients, we have come to believe that “when there is smoke, there is usually fire.” If you suspect that your trustee is not distributing assets to which you are entitled, it is worth looking into. We can evaluate the situation and help you discover whether the trustee is breaching his or her duties.
The Trustee is Engaging in Wrongful Expenditures
Trustees do have the power to spend money on expenses related to managing the estate. They cannot spend money owned by the trust on things that are not related to the estate. For example, the trustee cannot spend money on his or her personal mortgage payment or expenses. If you suspect that your trustee has been mismanaging funds, an experienced trust lawyer can help you review the administrator/trustee’s accounting.
Trustees are required to keep regular accounts of how they spend money and on what they spend money. While trustees are entitled to compensation for fulfilling their duties, the payment must be reasonable. They must receive payment based on their experience and skill set. For example, if they are only spending five hours a week managing the trust, they should not be paid a full-time salary.
Abuse of Power as a Trustee
Estate trustees and executors often misuse their power to make things difficult for beneficiaries. For example, if there are multiple beneficiaries, the trustee might favor one beneficiary by refusing to respond to the other beneficiary’s requests for information. Or, the beneficiary might give more compensation to their favorite trustee against the Trust Agreement. These situations would fall into the category of gross incompetence.
Contact Our Experienced Lawyers as Soon as Possible
If you are a trust beneficiary and you are concerned that the trustee is misusing his or her power, our law firm can help. We have successfully represented many clients against trustees. Contact the Law Office of Daniel Hunt as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help you.