Category: Trust Administration

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Who Can Oversee Revocable Charitable Trusts?

Narcotics Anonymous established a revocable trust to manage its literature and other intellectual property assets for the benefit of its many members.  A “regional delegate group” filed a petition in Los Angeles probate court claiming that the trustee was breaching its fiduciary duties. The California Court of Appeal, in Autonomous Region of Narcotics Anonymous v. … Continue Reading

Who Protects the Interests of Children in Trust Disputes?

California trust disputes often involve the interests of parents and their minor children.  Sometimes those interests conflict.  When disputes are settled, who looks out for the interests of children under 18 years of age?  Who checks that no child is left behind? Probate judges, as explained in a prior post, may appoint a guardian ad … Continue Reading

Schism Deepens on California Trust Modification

The First District Court of Appeal recently joined the widening chasm amongst California appellate courts concerning trust modification procedure. Probate Code section 15402 is seemingly straightforward, consisting of a lone sentence: “Unless the trust instrument provides otherwise, if a trust is revocable by the settlor, the settlor may modify the trust by the procedure for … Continue Reading

Blast from the Past – Trusts Subject to Medi-Cal Reimbursement

We begin the year with a case, Riverside County Public Guardian v. Snukst (2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, involving an elder with dementia who received Medi-Cal benefits. The case, a blast from the past, illustrates how the State of California, under the law in effect until several years ago, could recoup the cost of such benefits … Continue Reading

Look Before Leaping Into an Anti-SLAPP Motion

Suing the suer is a common strategy in California civil litigation. A special motion to strike, known as an anti-SLAPP motion, can be a powerful weapon against retaliatory litigation.  We have explained the use of such motions in trust and estate disputes. More specifically, we have explored their application to petitions to enforce no contest … Continue Reading

Trust Modification/Amendment Procedure Now Unsettled in California

[Editor’s Note: The California Supreme Court granted review of Haggerty v. Thornton on December 22, 2021 in Case No. S271483.  The Supreme Court is likely to resolve the conflict between Haggerty v. Thornton and King v. Lynch.  In the meantime, per the Supreme Court’s order, the Haggerty opinion remains citable.] The Legislature and courts endeavor … Continue Reading

Fraud Claims May Reopen Court-Approved Accountings

Even a court order approving an accounting may not protect a California fiduciary if the accounting is inaccurate. That’s the upshot of Hudson v. Foster (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 640, a recent California Court of Appeal decision involving a conservatorship. The conservatee in this case consented to the conservator’s account and four years passed before the … Continue Reading

Zach Young, Second Generation Fiduciary, Helps Families with Transitions

Zachary Young is a private professional fiduciary with CMY Fiduciary Services in Sacramento.  His mother, Carolyn M. Young, began work as a fiduciary in 1986.  Zach received his bachelor’s degree in business and communications at Sacramento State University.  Zach joined his mother and sister, Lindsay Bowman, in the fiduciary business.  In 2012, he received his … Continue Reading

“California Trustee Removal Litigation and Mediation” Podcast

California trust disputes often involve allegations that trustees should be removed and suspended because they are acting improperly or have conflicts of interest. Attorney Denise Chambliss, author of an informative article on trustee removal, spoke with me on Trust Me!, the podcast of the Trusts and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association.  Joining us … Continue Reading

Disney Grandson Languishes in the “Unhappiest Place on Earth”

While Disneyland may be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” a California probate court may be the opposite for a Disney heir, mused the U.S. Court of Appeals in Lund v. Cowan (9th Cir. 2021) 5 F.4th 964. Bradford Lund, a 50 year-old grandson of Walt Disney, sued the probate judge who rejected a settlement agreement … Continue Reading

Steps to Follow with a Difficult Co-Trustee

We’ve written about how co-trustee conflict fuels California trust litigation and the problem seems to be growing.  Trust administration grinds to a halt because a co-trustee (or two or three) is hostile, stubborn, self-serving and/or apathetic.  While trusts are supposed to provide a streamlined alternative to a court-supervised probate proceeding, the efficiency may be is … Continue Reading

No Bad Faith Required – Trustee of Spendthrift Trust May Be Compelled to Pay Attorney Fees Under Family Code Section 2030

Section 2030 of California’s Family Code provides an important safeguard to ensure the fairness of marriage dissolution proceedings. It allows the Court to order a more financially well-off party to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney fees, beginning as early as the start of the proceedings. Section 2030 was enacted to put … Continue Reading

Immortal Right — Income Beneficiary’s Entitlement to Accounting Continues After Death

Many California trusts confer a lifetime right to income on a person (often the surviving spouse) with the remainder passing to designated survivors upon the income beneficiary’s death.  When the income beneficiary dies, is it too late for the executor of the beneficiary’s estate to request an accounting for the purpose of evaluating whether the … Continue Reading

When Can California Trustees Use Trust Funds to Hire Lawyers?

Many family member trustees are uncertain about whether and to what extent they can use trust assets to obtain legal representation.  For example, when two parents choose their daughter, upon their incapacity or death, to administer their trust as the successor trustee, the daughter may be unsure whether she can use trust money to hire … Continue Reading

Lights, Cabin, Action! A Showdown Over Jurisdiction and Venue

One of the first steps before filing a lawsuit is to decide which court has jurisdiction over it and where it is properly venued.  It’s a significant choice – not only for strategic reasons, but also because a poor selection may prove fatal to the lawsuit.  Such a hefty decision is not always an easy … Continue Reading

Take a Fire Prevention Approach to Your Estate Plan

As we enter the New Year, it’s a good time to revisit your estate plan.  The big question is whether your will, trust, power of attorney, and advance health care directive accomplish your personal objectives.  Guidance from an estate planner will help you review your plan in light of tax and other changes in the … Continue Reading

What a Catch! California Courts Can Adjudicate Claims Against Nonresident Trustees

What court should hear a dispute over a California trust?  I briefed this question last month when a judge questioned if a case should instead be adjudicated in neighboring states.  Such jurisdiction issues come up occasionally given the mobility of family members with interests in trusts. A recent appellate case, Van Buskirk v. Van Buskirk … Continue Reading

Trust on Trial Celebrates a Fifth Anniversary

We started Trust on Trial with a post on undue influence in November 2015 and now mark the blog’s fifth anniversary.  We thank readers of our “five cents” for their feedback, reflect on where we’ve been, and look towards the future. Focused on California trust and estate litigation, and dispute avoidance, we have published 127 … Continue Reading

Who Gets the Tahoe House and Other California Real Estate Inheritance Disputes

Many California trust and estate disputes involve the allocation of real estate amongst several beneficiaries.  Mom and Dad, may they rest in peace, owned an upscale home in the Fab 40s neighborhood of East Sacramento, a sweet Tahoe vacation home, and a few rental duplexes, but did not specify how these assets were to be … Continue Reading

En Garde! A Trust’s Revocation Method May Not Be Enforced Unless It Explicitly States It’s the Exclusive Means of Revocation

Creators of trusts (also known as settlors or trustors) usually think long and hard about how their property should pass when they die.  It’s therefore common for trustors, or their lawyers, to incorporate protective safeguards into their trust instruments to shield trustors from their own whim and indecision, and ensure nobody trifles with their wishes … Continue Reading

Guardian of the Galaxy – What is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Trust and Estate Disputes?

Most California trust and estate disputes involve adults who can make their own choices about what to seek and how hard to litigate, such as the common scenario of siblings competing for assets.  But many disputes, or at least potential disagreements, involve people who can’t fend for themselves, such as mentally incapacitated adults, children, or … Continue Reading

How Does Amended California Emergency Rule 9 Affect Probate Proceedings?

(Editor’s Note: The example in the post below has been revised.) California causes of action are subject to various statutes of limitation.  Unless a plaintiff or petitioner files a complaint or other document asserting a cause of action within the applicable limitations period, the filing will be deemed time barred and subject to dismissal.  Under … Continue Reading

What California Trust and Estate Litigation Will Arise from the Economic Downturn?

The COVID-19 pandemic has idled workers and the coming weeks will bring more news of business closures and bankruptcies.  After a decade of sustained growth, we are facing a recession of uncertain depth and duration.  The New York Times recently reported that some Americans are turning (or perhaps returning) to “financial therapy” for support. In … Continue Reading
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