Trust, Estate & Probate Lawyers in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, Palm Springs, San Bernardino, & Silicon Valley
Trust Litigation Basics
A trust is a fiduciary relationship is which a trustor transfers a property upon a trustee for benefit of a third party, known as a beneficiary. Trusts are generally private and not subject to probate (court supervision) thus, many estate plans in California include one or more trusts. Because most people lack the experience of acting as a trustee or beneficiary, disputes arise and can frequently lead to litigation.
A trustee has legal title over assets and holds the assets in a trust for the benefit of third persons (beneficiaries) on behalf of the trustor who created the trust. The trustee owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries and violation of that duty leaves the trustee personally liable. The terms of a trust can change the duties or obligations that a trustee has—the trust can serve to limit the liability of a trustee. However, it is important to know that trustee duties and trustee liability cannot be completely eliminated.
Trustee Fiduciary Duty
A trustee owes fiduciary duties both to a trustor and to beneficiaries. Comparatively, beneficiaries do not owe fiduciary duties to trustees. These fiduciary duties are extremely important and can lead to personal liability if breached.
It is important for trustees to engage with the complaints and objections of the beneficiaries of a trust because they are the fiduciary of the trust, and therefore the party at risk. A trustee should take great effort to make sure beneficiaries remain informed regarding the trust and decisions affecting the trust. Listening and answering beneficiary questions can greatly reduce the risk of trust litigation.
For more information on a trustee’s fiduciary duties, visit our Trustee Duties page.
Trust Litigation Process
Most disputes end up in probate court when beneficiaries sue to have a trustee removed, the trust amended, or other issues with the trust. The process of trust litigation can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, communicating with beneficiaries about their concerns can save trustees time and stress. Additionally, hiring a knowledgeable trust and probate attorney who will work to ensure your trust litigation goes as quickly and efficiently as possible can greatly reduce legal costs.
What if a Trustee is Unsure What to Do?
One avenue a trustee can explore is petitioning the court for instructions on how to handle a specific matter. The decision of the court will normally be binding on the parties. Thus, a trustee can find protection from litigation this way.
Typical Reasons for Trust Litigation
Many trust issues arise because trustees fails to understand their fiduciary duties due to inexperience and do not take the time to understand their obligations. Similarly, many beneficiaries do not understand the fiduciary duties of trustees. Thus, mediation can be quite helpful because, as mentioned above, trust litigation typically arises because of a failure to communicate between trustees and beneficiaries. Of course, if no resolution can be found, trust litigation becomes a great and necessary option.
When Do I Need a Trust Litigation Attorney in California?
The trust and probate attorneys at Talkov Law provide trust litigation services including:
- Attorney advice on trust administration
- Representation in trust contests
- Litigation of undue influence and incapacity
- Assisting trustees on preventing and handling disputes
- Assessment of claims by beneficiaries
- Breach of fiduciary duty
Contact a California Trust, Probate, and Estate Attorney Today!
California laws governing trusts are complicated. If you have an interest in a trust, as a beneficiary or a trustee, contact one of the trust, probate and estate attorneys today for a free consultation at (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or contact us online.
Our Trust, Probate and Estate Litigation Attorneys practice in the following areas: