After the passing of a loved one, the issue inevitably arises of how to dispose of the decedent's property. The foresight to provide a written revocable trust is of great help, but even this does not allow for the immediate transfer of assets. Instead, the property must be temporarily held in trust by one designated as the successor trustee. This person is stated in each trust and is usually a close friend or relative. Most of the time, if done correctly, the trust settlement process can remain outside the jurisdiction of the courts. Carrying out a loved one's last wishes in accordance with California State Law can be complex and confusing, and it is usually wise for a successor trustee to enlist the help of an experienced trust attorney. Although ideal, this is not a requirement and many trustees act alone.
In certain circumstances, the trust settlement process can get even more difficult by turning into a trust litigation situation. While never desirable, court-involved trust litigation might arise from a number of situations. Sometimes a beneficiary feels that the trustee is not performing his or her duties or is abusing their power and position and decides to file suit. The beneficiary may also feel that the trust itself was drawn up in an illegal manner, was fraudulently signed, or was signed while undue influence was exerted. Another litigation scenario may arise if a trustor “lacked capacity” due to dementia or some other mental disability at the time of signing documents. Many times a person who has been specifically left out of a trust feels that they were wrongfully excluded and files suit.
As a trust beneficiary, it is always prudent to secure legal representation even if you feel that the trustee is acting in good faith. It is especially important to have representation if you believe a trustee has mismanaged your deceased loved one's estate in any significant way. It is your right as a beneficiary to request a written account from him or her. You should also have been given a copy of the trust from the beginning of the trust settlement process. In short, you have the right to be kept informed of how your loved one's assets are being managed and distributed. If you encounter resistance to any of these fully legal and reasonable demands, it may be time to secure the services of a trust attorney.
You may be concerned that litigating a trust dispute will be too costly to be practical, but this is not always the case. An experienced attorney can often minimize the time that trust-related litigation takes, making it more cost-effective. If you need a trust attorney in or around Irvine and Orange County, California, consider Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC. They have deep experience in all areas of estate planning, probate, and trust litigation. Contact Mortensen and Reinheimer, PC today at 714-384-6053 or fill out the online request form to learn more or schedule a consultation.