Class action lawsuits often result in settlements that remain in trust for the benefit of the class members. While this might seem the end of the story, it is far from it. The trustee is often invested with the discretion to determine settlement amounts for each class member and when to make their distributions. In some cases, the trustee even has the authority to invest trust funds to increase distributions (or to fund charitable causes pertinent to the settlement). This authority can affect the legal and financial rights of class members.
Trusts and wills are important legal tools that carry out a person's wishes with respect to their property. When undue influence from an individual, group, or company overcomes a person's will, some people can challenge these wishes in court. Proof of undue influence may invalidate a will or trust altogether.
In California, a trustee has a significant amount of control over the trust administration process. The trustee has the power to gather the assets of the trust, work with creditors, and distribute the trust assets to the beneficiaries. The trustee also owes the beneficiaries of the trust (and the trust itself) a fiduciary duty to act in their best interests at all times. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and trustees sometimes breach their duties to beneficiaries to the extent that it justifies their removal .
Trusts are an extremely common way for people to transfer assets to others at the ends of their lives, and it is easy to understand why. When a person uses a will to dispose of assets, the estate must go through a process known as probate, which can prove long and complicated, and cost the estate a significant amount of money in fees. On the other hand, using a trust to transfer assets to beneficiaries avoids probate, as the transfer takes place immediately on the occurrence of some specified event.
Most of us are familiar with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a timeless classic for the Christmas season. Maybe we read the story at some point, or we've seen a film or theatre version of the work that Dickens wrote in 1843. After all these years, why does A Christmas Carol still resonate with us, no matter our walk of life? I think it has something to do with love, family, and our common humanity.