What options does a beneficiary have against a bad trustee? Let's say a trustee is abusing their position and not distributing funds to the beneficiary. Maybe they've frozen them out of the trust completely and are using other people's money to enrich themselves: trips to Hawaii, new cars, the whole nine yards. I've seen it before.
Let's start by taking stock of trustee advantages. Trustees usually possess the financial and legal power to defend against trust challenges. This is altogether suitable for trusts that are appropriately formed or amended. But what's suitable for good conduct doesn't work in defending bad conduct. Challenges to trusts formed or amended by bad conduct present many hurdles to challengers - the financial ability to commence a civil prosecution, taking the wrongdoer to court, is often chief among them. Trust defenders, even trust defenders of bad conduct, frequently hold the balance of power in trust litigation.
Given these facts, what's the smart way to take legal action against an abusive trustee? The balance of power may be leveled or even shift when a trust challenger or disinherited heir is able to hire their lawyer on a contingency fee basis. It is very hard for low and moderate-income people to mount challenges against well-financed defendants. Contingency fee arrangements provide fair access to the legal system to a significant number of people who would not otherwise be able to hire experienced lawyers for what can be expensive litigation.
When we represent clients on a contingency basis, we adhere to the ethical rules set in place by the State Bar and the safeguards of California's Business and Professions Code. These include the following guidelines:
What are the rules for attorney contingency fees?
- 1) The agreement is in writing with a signed duplicate provided to the client;
- 2) The client is notified that the fee is negotiable;
- 3) The client is notified of the percentage fee as well as how costs and disbursements will affect the size of the fee and the client's recovery.
Source: CA Business and Professions Code
Wrongdoer trustees might laugh when they think they hold all the cards against a beneficiary. They're no longer laughing when faced with veteran litigators who know the law and can shift the balance of power.
Hackard Law protects trust beneficiary interests in major cases across California, including in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Diego and Sacramento. We take action where we think we can make a significant difference. If you think a contingency arrangement may be right for your case, you can call us at 916-313-3030. We'll be glad to see how we can help you.