How Do You Sue a Trustee of a Trust?

How Do You Sue a Trustee of a Trust?

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Suing a trustee of a trust can be a complicated and challenging process. We provide an overview of the steps involved in suing a trustee, including understanding the grounds for suing, the legal process, and seeking legal advice. By the end of this article, you should have a clearer understanding of your rights and options when considering suing a trustee of a trust.

Understanding Trusts and Trustees

Before delving into the process of suing a trustee, it is essential to understand the basics of trusts and the roles and responsibilities of trustees.

by | Apr 10, 2023

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement in which one party, the settlor, transfers assets to another party. This trustee manages and holds the assets to benefit one or more beneficiaries. Trusts are often used for estate planning, asset protection, and tax planning purposes.

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Roles and Responsibilities of a Trustee

A trustee has a fiduciary duty to manage the trust assets in the best interest of the beneficiaries. The trustee’s responsibilities may include the following:

  • Investing trust assets.
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries according to the trust terms.
  • Maintaining accurate records and accounting.

Grounds for Suing a Trustee

There are several reasons why a beneficiary or another interested party may want to sue a trustee. Here are some common grounds for legal action:

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

A trustee’s fiduciary duty requires them to act in the trust’s and its beneficiaries’ best interest. If the trustee fails to fulfill this duty, they may be sued for breach of fiduciary duty.

Mismanagement of Trust Assets

If a trustee mismanages the trust assets, such as making poor investment decisions or failing to preserve assets, they can be held liable for losses incurred by the trust.

Self-Dealing and Conflicts of Interest

A trustee must avoid conflicts of interest and self-dealing. If a trustee engages in transactions that benefit themselves at the trust’s or its beneficiaries’ expense, they can be sued for self-dealing.

Improper Distribution of Trust Assets

A trustee must distribute trust assets according to the terms of the trust. Beneficiaries can take legal action against them if they fail to do so. Therefore, if necessary, the trustee must find legal assistance on any tax and questionable activities.

Failure to Provide Information or Account

A trustee has a fiduciary duty to provide beneficiaries with information and regular trust accountings. Beneficiaries can sue the trustee if a trustee fails to fulfill this duty. You can learn more about contesting a trust.

The Process of Suing a Trustee

Once you have identified valid grounds for suing a trustee, the following steps outline the process of taking legal action:

  • Initial Steps to Contest the Trust

Before filing a lawsuit, resolve the issue with the trustee directly. If that fails, consult with a trust litigation attorney experienced in trust litigation to discuss your options and determine the best course of action. Your attorney may recommend sending a demand letter to the trustee outlining your concerns and requesting specific actions to rectify the situation.

  • Filing a Lawsuit with the probate court

If the initial steps are unsuccessful, you may proceed with filing a lawsuit against the trustee. Your attorney will draft and file a complaint with the appropriate court, detailing the grounds for suing the trustee and the relief you seek, such as damages or removal of the trustee.

  • Discovery Phase

During the discovery phase, both parties will gather evidence to support their case. This process may involve exchanging documents, conducting depositions, and submitting written questions (interrogatories) to the opposing party.

  • Trial and Judgment

If the case goes to trial, both parties will present their evidence and arguments to the judge or jury. The judge or jury will then decide whether the trustee breached their duties and, if so, what remedies should be awarded. Possible remedies may include monetary damages, removal of the trustee, or court orders directing the trustee to take specific actions.


Seeking Legal Advice and Representation

Suing a trustee is a complex legal process that requires a thorough understanding of trust law and litigation procedures. It is highly recommended that you consult an experienced trust litigation attorney who can evaluate your case, guide you through the process, and advocate for your interests in court. Hess-Verdon & Associates has been litigating for over 30+ years in California courts. Call 949-706-7300. 

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Suing a trustee of a trust can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Still, it may be necessary to protect your interests as a beneficiary or ensure the trust is managed correctly. Understanding the grounds for suing a trustee, the legal process involved, and the importance of obtaining expert legal advice will help you navigate this challenging endeavor.


  1. Can a beneficiary sue a trustee for mismanagement of trust assets? Yes, a beneficiary can sue a trustee if they believe the trustee has mismanaged trust assets, resulting in losses to the trust or its beneficiaries.
  2. How long does it take to sue a trustee? The length of time it takes to sue a trustee can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. It may take anywhere from several months to a few years for a trust litigation case to be resolved.
  3. What evidence is needed to prove a trustee breached their fiduciary duty? Evidence may include financial records, correspondence between the trustee and beneficiaries, witness testimony, and expert opinions on the trustee’s actions.
  4. Can a trustee be removed from their position if they are found to have breached their fiduciary duty? Yes, a court may order the removal of a trustee if they are found to have breached their fiduciary duty or otherwise acted inappropriately in their role as a trustee.
  5. Are there alternatives to suing a trustee? In some cases, resolving disputes with a trustee through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration may be possible. These alternative dispute resolution methods can be faster and less costly than litigation but may not always be appropriate or successful in resolving the issue.

Why Choose Us

Choose Hess-Verdon & Associates PLC for trusted legal representation in all your trust and probate litigation matters. Our Hess-Verdon team of experienced attorneys has over 30 years of experience in probate and trust litigation. We are dedicated to delivering comprehensive, results-driven legal counsel. From negotiating, mediating, or arbitrating a resolution, to aggressively defending your rights in court, we have the expertise to achieve the best possible outcome for you. Let us put our commitment and extensive experience to work for you. Call us today and take the first step toward securing your desired outcome. Call 1-888-318-4430.

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