Can a Beneficiary Sue a Trustee

Yes, a beneficiary can sue a trustee, but be aware, a judge will only entertain it if you have used reasonable care and allowing time for the trustee to respond. Transparency and bookkeeping will be the primary focus. Fiduciary duty calls out to be transparent and gives updates to beneficiaries and heirs.

Suing a Trustee of Breach of Fiduciary Duty?

If a Beneficiary wants to sue a Trustee of a Trust, you as a beneficiary must first allow for “reasonable” time for the Trustee to respond. If you have legal action, then it is necessary to compel the Trustee for transparency of the bookkeeping, receipts and more. There are many legal actions a beneficiary can take to remove, replace or terminate the Trustee.

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Beneficiary Suing the Trustee of a Trust for Mishandling assets

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Can a beneficiary sue a trustee?

The question typically asked is as follows: “can a beneficiary sue a Trustee?” The simple answer is Yes, you can sue a trustee of a trust if you feel they breached their fiduciary duty, but remember, there are a few crucial factors you must consider before attempting to incur cost and time.

Suing a trustee of a trust is possible as long as you are a beneficiary or heir and you feel beneficiary rights to information is compromised. When the Trustor dies and leaves a Trust, a trustee is designated to manage the wishes of the Trustor. There are many responsibilities that the Trustee will have to address, such as attaining death certificates, understanding all assets, and manage them, so pilferage does not take place. 

Suing a Trustee of a Trust

The first crucial step is to make sure you have a case against the trustee and can prove a breach of fiduciary duty. There is much reason why a beneficiary will sue a trustee. A primary reason to petition to remove a trustee is due to a lack of transparency and estate asset management. Suing a Trustee will be held in the city court location based on the trust locality.

Now, to sue a Trustee, you have to prove the Trustee breached their fiduciary duty. The fiduciary duty includes many possibilities, including the following:

  1. The Trustee is refusing to give an accounting to the beneficiaries.
  2. Did the Trustee mishandle the estate funds?
  3. The Trustee is not communicative and refusing to fulfill a beneficiary request for information
  4. Is the Trustee self-dealing? Are they putting their interest before the beneficiaries

How to Sue a Trust

Now, as a beneficiary, you have to make sure you are reasonable for allowing the Trustee to meet timeframes, etc.

  • For example: Within 60 days after taking the responsibility of the Trust, the Trustee shall give notice to the qualified beneficiaries of the acceptance and their full name and address of the Trustee. 
  • Within 60 days once the Trustee requires knowledge of the creation of the irrevocable Trust, whether they learned it by the death of the settlor or any other means, the Trustee shall give notice of the identity of the settlor, a right to request a copy of the trust instrument, and the right to an accounting. 

Now, if the Trustee feels they have been reasonable and have been meeting the objectives of the Trustee, you will need to go to court to prove the breach of fiduciary duty.

How to Sue an Estate

So, the Trustee can and will use the funds of the Trust to defend themselves in the trust litigation process. Therefore write a letter or email to the Trustee of your objections. Explain your objections. When writing to the Trustee to act reasonably, and if they don’t, you will look reasonable to the court. Then find an estate litigation attorney and pursue your rights.

Moreover, if you are considering to sue the Trustee of the Trust, there are a few things to know.  

Legal action by a beneficiary may result in the following:

  1. Remove the Trustee(s)
  2. Replace the Trustee(s)
  3. Possibly terminate the Trust:
  4. Obtain proper distributions of Trust Assets to Beneficiaries and heirs

Hess-Verdon & Associates is one of the leading California estate planning law firms involved in litigation regarding wills, trusts, and estates. Estate litigation is one of our primary focuses and accounts for much of our work in court, and our track record in litigation is both extensive and impressive.  

Our knowledgeable and aggressive courtroom representation is necessary to ensure family members, executors, trustees, beneficiaries, and others maintain the grantor’s wishes.

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