Estate disputes are ugly – sometimes really ugly. So when trustees, beneficiaries, and heirs step into the fight, good counsel – that is, probate and trust litigation attorneys – should help their clients count the costs. Many times that is easier said than done. Given the complications of estate fights, estimating costs can be an elusive process.
One particular estate fight focused on the decedent’s domicile may become like a runaway train. Fighting estate battles in two or more states can seriously tax a trust, heir, or beneficiary’s bank account. The fight over of a decedent’s home may be protracted and susceptible to inconsistent state rulings. A person may reside in multiple states but only be domiciled in one. A Califor[...]
Hackard Law, a California law firm representing clients in trust, estate and probate litigation, is regularly called upon to enforce a wronged beneficiary’s right to an accounting from an uncommunicative, recalcitrant or duplicitous trustee. While California probate courts will follow the law and order a trustee to provide an accounting, this is only part of what is often necessary to safeguard the beneficiary’s trust interests and to prevent further harm to an innocent beneficiary.
Trustee actions leading to the necessity of filing a petition for a court-ordered accounting often include the trustee’s refusal to make trust distributions. Waiting on an inheritance is a continual source of frustration to estate and trust heirs or ben[...]
Most parts of everyday life and business occur informally and without the need for active administrative or judicial enforcement mechanisms. We follow traffic laws and know that if we don’t that we can be cited for speeding or whatever other violations we commit. We fill up our cars and assume that the gas pump counting the gallons purchased is correct. There are so many things that we do without third-party enforcement unless someone messes up.
This is the way trust accounting works. Informal trust accountings without court oversight are an everyday occurrence. A Probate Court Petition to compel a trustee to account goes beyond the everyday informal accountings. It is filed by a beneficiary when a trustee fails to provide the benefici[...]
You petition the Probate Court for an Order To Suspend the Powers of a Trustee or to remove the Trustee of a Trust. You also seek to enjoin the Trustee from using trust funds for his or her defense. The Probate Judge grants a hearing. The hearing is held and the California Superior Court grants the Petition and a suspension and/or removal of the trustee is ordered. The Court also orders the appointment of the Successor Trustee. The Court will also order the former trustee to turn over all the assets of the trust to the Successor Trustee. The former trustee is usually ordered to render an accounting to the court within 30 to 60 days of the order.
The Successor Trustee begins the process of deciphering the financial actions of the predeces[...]
If you’re a trust beneficiary in California, you need to know your rights. As a trust beneficiary, you’re entitled to receive a regular distribution from funds designated to you under the rules of the trust. The trustee, the person who is in charge of administering that trust, has a legal duty toward you, the beneficiary. The trustee has the responsibility to inform you of the status of the trust and ensure that you receive your full share of distributions from a trust on time and in the right amount. Above all, a trustee is called to be fair and ethical in managing trust assets.
When a trustee isn’t fair to beneficiaries, that means beneficiaries are being abused. For protection from further abuse and in order to get rightful dist[...]
Ronald Reagan, when asked about his strategy against the Soviet Union in the Cold War answered simply: “We win, they lose.”
The simplicity of this strategy struck the talking heads of the time as unsophisticated – even childish. Looking back at its brilliance, we see how it set a tone – a focal point – a direction for all to follow. The same simple principle holds true for litigation in estate & trust matters.
Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” When it comes to estate, trust and probate litigation, attitude does make a big difference. Over my forty years of practice, I’ve seen lawyers who consistently expected to win – and their work, perseverance and creativity allo[...]
There are a variety of creditors that seek to enforce money judgments against California trust beneficiaries (beneficiaries who are also judgment debtors). California has a number of laws that identify what limits, if any, apply to the enforcement of these judgments.
California’s counties generally have a Department of Child Support Services. The department’s Mission Statement often defines the general goal for such departments. As an example:
“The mission of the Santa Clara County Department of Child Support Services is to promote the well-being of children and the self-sufficiency of families by delivering effective child support services to help meet the financial and medical needs of children.”
These departments make ev[...]
I suppose that there are times in any job or profession when we struggle with our purpose, our import, our position in the life of the community that we live and serve. A way to deal with this struggle is to look at the world around us – to look and believe that the people we meet – the people that seek us out for our advice and counsel – are important gifts in our lives. These people share the problems facing them in everyday life and seek our advice and counsel. I always feel particularly graced when called upon to assist elders who need protection and a remedy for wrongdoing. This wrongdoing often involves the abuse of a power of attorney granted by the elder to someone close to him or her – often even a family member.
In estate law, a sense of fair play is crucial to every element of the legal process – from the drafting of wills and trusts to probate and the distribution of funds and assets. Clients, attorneys and financial professionals all depend on trust, along with the implicit assumption that everyone’s operating in good faith. When trust breaks down in an estate case, litigation often ensues, and in extreme circumstances law enforcement is forced to step in. So what happens when millions inexplicably go missing from an estate and beneficiaries are exploited?
The matter of Connecticut attorney Peter Clark serves as a reminder on the need for accountability and fair play in estate law. Clark, 57, made a plea bargain last month with the US Att[...]