Articles Posted in Trust & Probate Litigation

TRUSTS – DUTY TO ACCOUNT TO BENEFICIARIES & TYPES OF ACCOUNTING

By: David L. Crockett, Attorney, CPA

Types of Accounting:  Trust accounting may be (1) Informal; (2) Formal (non-court) according to Probate Code §16063 format; or (3) Court accounting according to Probate Code §1060 et. seq. requirements. The trust accounting is to be prepared by the Trustee and/or under his/her authorization.

TRUST ACCOUNTING LAWSUIT/PETITION PROCEDURES

By: David L. Crockett, Attorney, CPA

Trust terminology basics.     A trust is created by a written  document  known as a declaration of trust, and is then funded by transfer of money  into  trust bank accounts and/or deeding or transferring of properties to the  trust.   The creator of the trust is known as the “Trustor” or the “Settlor.”  Trusts are usually prepared by attorneys because each trust is custom for the situation and there are many types of trusts.  The persons who are to receive money and property out of the trust are known as the “Beneficiaries.  The person or institution that takes care of the money and property  of  the  trust is the “trustee”.  The trustee is bound by law to follow the  directions contained in  the declaration of  trust.  Trusts are not supervised by the court system and are not registered with the state government upon formation.  Trusts are essentially private contracts between the trustors, the trustees and the beneficiaries.  There are laws written into the California probate code that control the governance of trust matters.

WHY DID THE TRUSTEE PAY ALL THAT MONEY TO HIMSELF?

WHAT ARE TRUSTEE FEES?

A trust is typically established by a document known as a declaration of trust will which is a document with instructions for how the trust assets are to be handled. The declaration of trust also identifies the trust creators, known as trustors, the beneficiaries who will be receiving money and benefits out of the trust and the trustee. The trustee is the person or institution responsible for administering the trust, writing the checks, paying the bills, etc. The trustees fees are what is paid to the trustee for doing the work of administering the trust.

Image of two sisters angry with each other

My Sister is the Trustee and She Refuses to Pay My Share

Trust terminology basics

A trust is created by a written document known as a declaration of trust, and is then funded by transfer of money into trust bank accounts and/or deeding or transferring of properties to the trust.   The creator of the trust is known as the “Trustor” or the “Settlor.”  Trusts are usually prepared by attorneys because each trust is custom for the situation and there are many types of trusts.  The persons who are to receive money and property out of the trust are known as the “Beneficiaries.” The person or institution that takes care of the money and property of the trust is the “Trustee”.  The trustee is bound by law to follow the directions contained in the declaration of trust.

Image of young caregiver assisting woman from car.

Wills benefiting the attorney or caregiver are suspect

Abuses in formation of wills and trusts

In California over the last few decades there have been some situations whereby attorneys or caregivers have had wills or trusts prepared that benefit them. There was a famous case of a 95-year-old lady whose will left the bulk of her fortune to the people taking care of her. It turns out that the people taking care of her, known as “care custodians” had the will prepared under suspicious circumstances such that the 95-year-old lady probably didn’t know what she was signing. This and other similar situations led to recent legislation to correct abuses.

Cut out the heirs who challenge the will using No Contest Clauses

Challenges can occur

Image of a courtroom doorIf a will or a trust does not make an equal division of the estate then an unhappy heir might want to make a challenge. The law does not require you to equally divide your estate equally amongst your children or to give anything to them for that matter. Most children or in some instances brothers or sisters where there are no children feel that they are entitled to an inheritance. Not everybody understands or believes that a person making a will or trust can leave his or her assets to anyone. This has led to litigation challenging the provisions of the will or trust.

Letting Some of the Kids Live in Mom’s House May Lead to Costly Litigation

Frequently we run across situations where parents will leave their residences to one or more of their children in their will or their trust. If they only have one child then the situation is usually okay but when there are multiple children and some are living in the house and some are not there can be problems. Allowing some children to live in Mom’s house messes up the other sibling’s inheritance.

Image of smug child who mom like more than sibblings

The Back Story

Doctor Ran Off with his Nurse  =  Lifetime Chase

Image of Doctor and nurseWe handled a case that spread across decades. It started out uncomplicated as we were the attorneys for a conservator who was handling the affairs of his distant cousin. The conservatee, Linda, was formerly Dr. Smith’s nurse. Linda had married Dr. Smith who apparently had a prior marriage and at least one daughter, but Dr. Smith had died many years ago and left his new wife, Linda, about $500,000 to live on.

The conservatee, Linda, became incompetent so a conservatorship was established to handle her money. We had been filing normal conservatorship accounting reports with the court every two years to prove how her money was being spent. When she passed away last year she had about $50,000 of the original $500,000 left and we had to determine how do distribute the estate and to whom.

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