In addition to bark, the Probate Code can have bite too. Some Probate Code sections have provisions that are punitive in nature and are designed to keep fiduciaries and others dealing with trust property in line. These statutes have sharp teeth.
Take, for example, California Probate Code section 859, which concerns property taken from a trust, an estate, a minor, an elder, or other vulnerable persons through the use of undue influence, in bad faith, or through the commission of financial elder abuse. This statute might be triggered if Junior tricked Mom into leaving him the $1.2 million family home in Granite Bay to the exclusion of Sister. In such an instance, section 859 permits the assessment of damages against the offending person in an amount double the value of the property that was taken, and allows for the court’s discretionary award of attorneys’ fees. This means that Sister might be able to recover $2.4 million against Junior along with the attorneys’ fees she spends pursuing him.