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Protecting the Rights of Trusts & Estates Beneficiaries 

Trust and probate matters can be emotionally devastating as family members and friends are often pitted against each other while still working through the trauma of a recent death. Resolving these disputes requires not only knowledge of the relevant California law but also a firm grasp of the civil litigation process.  

Are you getting your Fair Share?

Disputes are common in the administration of a trust or estate, especially when there are substantial sums of money involved or when the assets of a decedent are more complex than a simple piece of property. These disputes can arise between beneficiaries, between the fiduciary and beneficiaries, or from third parties. This could leave the bereaved family in a state of chaos and conflict. Our firm has extensive knowledge of the specific laws pertaining to California trusts and estates, and decades of experience litigating a wide variety of trust & probate disputes. Whatever the specific conflict involves, we will strive to bring you justice. 

What rights do trust beneficiaries have? 

Trusts are flexible documents, conferring rights on beneficiaries according to the grantor’s intentions. However, trust law generally entitles beneficiaries to:

  • Receive a true, complete and final copy of the trust

  • Contest the trust

  • Be reasonably informed about the trust and trust administration

  • Request a trust accounting

  • Object to an accounting and to seek judicial review,

  • Compel a trustee to act in accordance with terms of the trust

  • Receive fair and impartial treatment from the trustee

  • Seek to remove and replace a trustee

  • Pursue legal remedies against the trustee for fiduciary negligence or malfeasance

  • Receive timely distributions

If your rights as a trustee have been violated, our attorneys can pursue the redress you deserve.

Types of Beneficiaries:

If the language of the will or trust is not clear, there can be doubt as to what beneficiary category you all into. Our attorneys are adept at interpreting legal documents to protect our clients’ rights. 

Primary Beneficiary  —

The first person or organization named to receive a particular asset or benefit. 

Life Estate Beneficiaries —

Sometimes, a trust grants beneficiaries the right to enjoy property during their lifetime without conferring legal ownership of the property.

Residuary Beneficiaries —

These are persons or organizations that receive the remainder of an estate after specific dispersals to named beneficiaries. 

Contingent Beneficiary —

Also known as an alternate beneficiary, the contingent person or organization receives assets when the primary named beneficiary cannot. Contingent beneficiaries come into play when a primary beneficiary predeceases the testator of the will or the dispersal of trust assets, and the relevant document has not been updated. 

Final Beneficiary —

A person or entity that receives an asset after the life estate beneficiary passes.

Glossary of Essential Terms

Trust —

A trust is a legal entity created to hold specific assets for the person creating the document, or Grantor. Many people create revocable living trusts to hold assets while they're alive. These trusts then become irrevocable upon their death. The purpose for doing this is to avoid the time and expense of probate, as well as to provide instructions for the management of their assets in the event they become incapacitated. 

Trustee —

Though the trust is not an actual person, the assets placed into the trust must be managed by a designated individual, known as the trustee. The trust creator or grantor designates a trustee, who has a fiduciary duty to manage trust assets in the best interests of beneficiaries as outlined in the trust agreement and comply with applicable laws when overseeing and allocating trust assets for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. 

Beneficiary —

A beneficiary of trust is the individual or group of individuals for whom a trust is created. The trust creator or grantor designates beneficiaries who are to receive the assets of the trust as outlined in the trust documents.

Fiduciary —

A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their clients' interests ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary thus requires being bound both legally and ethically to act in the other's best interests.