Category: Trust Administration

Subscribe to Trust Administration RSS Feed

Take It or Leave It: The Perilous Decision of Whether to Violate a No Contest Clause

One of the most dramatic areas of California trust and estate litigation is no contest clauses.  No contest clauses bring a made-for-tv excitement to the practice of trust and estate law because of the risk of disinheritance.  Yet such clauses are widely misunderstood, even among attorneys.… Continue Reading

California Professional Fiduciaries Help Elders and Resolve Conflicts

California trust and estate disputes may be avoided or resolved with the appointment of a private professional fiduciary to act in an oversight role with respect to an elder’s care and/or finances.  In a recent post, we suggested the use of professional fiduciaries or bank trust departments to resolve conflicts among family member co-trustees. Here … Continue Reading

Co-Trustee Conflict Fuels California Trust Litigation

California trust litigation often stems from disagreements and hostility among family member co-trustees.  Rather than picking one of their kids to serve as sole successor trustee when they die or become incapacitated, Mom and Dad often appoint two or more of their children to act together as successor co-trustees. Having more than one child serve … Continue Reading

California Courts Must Examine Outgoing Trustee’s Assertion of Attorney-Client Privilege

One challenge that California trustees face is the prospect that confidential attorney-client communications will pass to successor trustees if they resign or are removed from office.  The attorney-client privilege belongs to the client, but the client is the office of the trustee, not the incumbent who holds that office.  Hence, the successor trustee generally gets … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Clarifies Creditor Access to Spendthrift Trusts

On March 23, 2017, at the request of a certified question from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court answered the age-old question – “what gives”? That is to say, what gives – the impenetrable wall of a spendthrift trust or the ability of a bankruptcy trustee to tap trust funds … Continue Reading

Just the FAQs: California Trust and Estate Litigation’s Greatest Hits, Part 1

In our Sacramento trust and estate litigation practice there are several questions that come up over and over again.  In many instances, these questions are the building blocks of our practice that lead to more complicated questions that sometimes require the filing of a lawsuit to answer.  As a starting place, below are some of … Continue Reading

California Trust Litigation 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Beneficiaries beware: don’t dive in to trust litigation too quickly.  That lesson was learned the hard way, ironically, by a diving heiress in Williamson v. Brooks (2017) 7 Cal.App.5th 1294.  The California Court of Appeal decision, which related to a trust created by the founder of Kirby Morgan Dive Systems, Inc., addresses the question of … Continue Reading

California Wage and Hour Lawsuits Spreading to Mom’s Living Room

In a recent post, we discussed the hazards, from a tax reporting perspective, of erroneously treating California caregivers as independent contractors as opposed to employees.  If a caregiver is an employee (as is often the case), her employer also must comply with the various wage and hour rules that apply to the employment relationship. Many … Continue Reading

Watch Out for Tax Issues When Paying California Caregivers

Hired caregivers (also known as home care aides) permit many California seniors to remain in their homes as they age and need assistance with activities of daily living.  Yet from my window looking out at Sacramento, I can see massive liability associated with the classification and payment of such workers.  Consider that baby boomers are … Continue Reading

Sacramento Appellate Court Rejects Personal Liability for Legal Fees in Trust Disputes

Since California trustees generally can use trust funds to pay lawyers to handle disputes, litigation can drain away the funds available for distribution to beneficiaries.  Hence, an overaggressive beneficiary can pursue litigation that penalizes all beneficiaries, even those who have no responsibility for the fight. Last week the California Third District Court of Appeal, based … Continue Reading

A Friend Request From The Beyond: California’s New Post-Death Digital Assets Law

Next time you schedule an appointment with Downey Brand’s Sacramento office to revise your estate plan you will have a new question to consider: who will manage your Facebook account when you’re gone? Assembly Bill No. 691, which became effective on January 1, 2017, attempts to aid in that process.  It is commonly called the … Continue Reading

Notice of Proposed Action May Quiet Back Seat Driving Beneficiaries

Acting as a trustee can be a thankless and time consuming job, especially when the reward at the end is nothing more than second-guessing from trust beneficiaries.  In our Sacramento-based trust and estate practice, we represent trustees who have strained relationships with beneficiaries, whether their siblings, step-relatives, or otherwise.  One useful tool to help trustees manage … Continue Reading

Sacramento Court Limits Reach of Anti-SLAPP Law in Trust Disputes

A few months ago, I wrote about the anti-SLAPP statute as a powerful defensive tool in California trust and estate litigation. Adding new light to the subject is a Sacramento-based appellate court’s decision in Greco v. Greco (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 810. The case narrows the ability of fiduciaries to bring motions to dismiss under the … Continue Reading

Red Alert: California Trust and Estate Litigation on an Ex Parte Basis

It’s early in the morning, you’ve only just started your first cup of coffee, and your first few sips of java have not yet percolated your brain into full gear. Suddenly, your cellphone vibrates, a call is coming. You do not recognize the number, but you answer anyway. Hello? You have just been provided notice … Continue Reading

California Courts Interpret Ambiguous Trust Documents by Stepping Into Creator’s Shoes

Guest author Karina Stanhope, a Downey Brand associate, contributes today’s post. Trust documents should be customized to serve the estate planning objectives of those who create them. While Parent One may want all of her assets to be distributed in equal shares to her children, Parent Two may want to exclude a child from receiving … Continue Reading

Watch Out for SLAPPs in California Trust and Estate Litigation

In heated California trust and estate litigation, one party’s petition to the probate court often leads the other side to file a retaliatory petition. If Sally petitions in Sacramento County Superior Court to contest Mom’s trust amendment on the ground that Mom had Alzheimer’s disease and lacked sufficient mental capacity to reduce Sally’s share, brother … Continue Reading

Stepmother Prevails on Accounting Issues at Court of Appeal

Sometimes stepmothers are just misunderstood. Babbitt v. Superior Court (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 1135, recently decided by the California Court of Appeal, involves one of the fact patterns that we often see in California trust litigation: children from a decedent’s prior marriage have conflict with their biological parent’s surviving spouse. In other words, after dad passes away, … Continue Reading

Fund Your California Trust Now to Avoid the “Lost and Found” Later

A trust is a vehicle for managing and disposing of property. Just as you don’t want to leave your suitcase on the beach when you return from vacation, you should ensure that your assets are securely loaded into the trust you have created. If you don’t, your assets may end up held in the legal … Continue Reading

When Can You Remove a Problem Trustee?

In California trust administrations, the trustee is in the driver’s seat. The trustee marshals the assets, deals with creditors, and (except in the case of ongoing trusts) gets them distributed out to the beneficiaries in fractional shares per the terms of the trust. But what happens when the trustee favors himself as a beneficiary, disfavors … Continue Reading

An Accountant and a Lawyer Walk Into a Bar…

At the Sacramento Estate Planning Council’s 2016 Technical Forum on Tuesday an elderly gentleman sitting next to me said “old accountants never die, they just lose their balance” and “old attorneys just lose their appeal(s).”  Sometimes both happen when an unbalanced accounting results in a lost appeal.  The California Court of Appeal issued a rare … Continue Reading

An Introduction to Department 129 of Sacramento County Superior Court

This month Judge Steven M. Gevercer will replace Judge David F. De Alba as the probate judge in Department 129 of the Sacramento County Superior Court. Judge Gevercer was appointed to the bench by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012 and previously served in the California Attorney General’s Office. Judges typically spend a year or two … Continue Reading

Fee Fi Fo Fum: Trustee Fees Can Be a Giant Issue in Trust Administration

Trustee fees are common flash points in the administration of family trusts. Trustees may put in hundreds of hours cleaning out and selling the family home, dealing with accountants, lawyers, and realtors, and otherwise working to distribute assets out to the beneficiaries. A diligent trustee provides a valuable service and should be compensated for his … Continue Reading

Tick, Tock … When Will I Get My Share of Mom and Dad’s Trust?

Most family trusts call for the outright distribution of assets to specific individuals (i.e., remainder beneficiaries) after the creators of the trust are gone.  In the most common scenario, the assets get doled out to the adult kids after Mom and Dad pass.  Even when a trustee is diligent and the situation is straightforward, it … Continue Reading
LexBlog