A beneficiary is a person or legal entity designated to receive assets from a trust or estate. Beneficiaries receive property or liquid assets after a person’s death or according to the terms of a trust. As a beneficiary, you have certain rights. If you believe your rights as a beneficiary were violated, you should talk with a California estate-planning attorney about your legal options.
Who Notifies Me That I Am a Beneficiary of a Trust?
A trustee is required by law to notify beneficiaries of a trust upon the settlor’s death. The settlor is the person who created the trust. The trustee has 60 days from the settlor’s death to provide the notification to the beneficiaries. The notification by the trustee must contain:
The settlor’s identity
The trust’s formation date
The name, address, and telephone number of the trustee
The address of the physical location where the trust is administered
Any other information that the trust requires the trustee to provide to beneficiaries
Notification that the beneficiary is entitled to a complete copy of the terms of the trust upon reasonable request to the trustee
If a trustee refuses to produce a copy of the terms of the trust or you believe the copy of the terms is not accurate and complete, you should contact an attorney immediately. The time to contest the trust is generally limited to 120 days from the date of the notification from the trustee, if the trustee includes a copy of the trust with the notice.
What Happens if the Trustee Does Not Notify Me?
Upon the filing of a will with the probate court, the will becomes a matter of public record. You can obtain a copy of the full will from the court.
California Probate Code §8200 generally requires the custodian of a will to deliver the will to the superior court for the county in which the decedent resided within 30 days after the person’s death. If the custodian is not the executor or personal representative named in the will, the custodian is also required to deliver a copy of the will to the executor or personal representative named in the will. If the personal representative’s whereabouts are unknown to the custodian, the custodian is required to give a copy of the will to a beneficiary named in the will, if the whereabouts of the beneficiaries are known to the custodian.
If a custodian refuses to file the will with the court, you can file a petition with the court demanding that the custodian produce the will.
Contact a California Estate-Planning Attorney for Help
Estate and trust matters can be complicated. Deadlines for filing contests and other petitions may be short. It is best to consult a California estate-planning attorney as soon as possible if you believe you are being denied information or property that your are entitled to receive as a beneficiary of a trust or estate. Talk with our California estate planning attorneys today.
As a beneficiary of a trust agreement, you have certain rights by law. The trust agreement may also give you rights as a beneficiary. Because you may receive significant benefits from the trust, it makes sense to know and understand your rights as a beneficiary. A California beneficiary rights attorney can help you protect your rights as a trust beneficiary, including contacting the trustee on your behalf to resolve issues directly or by filing a lawsuit with the court seeking resolution of a matter related to the trust or its administration.
1. You have the right to receive notice of the trust and the property held by the trust.
As a beneficiary, you have the right to review a copy of the trust once the vestment of your rights under the trust occurs. Your rights in a trust become vested with the trust becomes irrevocable. A trust can be created as an irrevocable trust while other trusts become irrevocable upon the death of the grantor or another qualifying event. When you receive a copy of the trust, read the entire trust. If you do not understand any of the terms of the trust, contact an attorney for assistance. You need to understand the provisions of the trust to know whether your rights are being violated.
2. You have the right to receive an annual accounting from the trustee.
Each year, the trustee must provide the trust beneficiaries with an accounting pursuant to trust laws in California. The terms of the trust agreement cannot waive or restrict the duty of the trustee to provide annual accounting. Beneficiaries are also entitled to an accounting from the trustee upon termination of the trust or when a new trustee assumes management of the trust.
3. The accounting must contain certain details regarding trust property.
The annual accounting by the trustee must satisfy the legal requirements for a trust accounting record. For example, the trustee must include information related to expenses incurred by the trust during the year. The trustee must also account for any trust property sold, transferred, or distributed during the year. The beneficiaries also have the right to know what property the trust still holds.
4. You have the right to petition the court for assistance.
If a trustee fails to perform his or her duties or breaches the fiduciary duty owed to beneficiaries of the trust, you have the right to petition the court to ask the court to intervene. The court may require the trustee to account for various actions and property. Depending on the outcome of the case, the court may remove the trustee and order the trustee to reimburse the trust for value lost because of the trustee’s breach of duty or other wrongdoing.
Contact a California Estate-Planning Attorney for More Information
The terms of the trust agreement impact your rights as a beneficiary. Trust agreements are complicated documents. A California estate-planning attorney can review the trust to determine your rights as a beneficiary under the trust agreement and pursuant to California trust law. If your beneficiary rights have been violated, the attorney can explain the various legal options available, including trust litigation, to resolve the matter. Contact us today for a consultation.
After your death, the person you name in your will to manage your estate begins the process of probating your will. Your will is authenticated, and your personal representative begins securing your property, identifying your heirs, and assessing your final debts and legal obligations. Your will dictates the distribution of your property after payment of your final debts.
However, your heirs or other interested persons could contest the terms of your will. If your will is overturned, your wishes may not be carried out. Consulting a California estate-planning attorney when drafting your will is one of the best ways to avoid a will contest.
Steps You Can Take to Avoid a Will Contest
You cannot stop someone from contesting the terms of your will after your death. However, you can make it more difficult for someone to have grounds to contest the will and make it less likely that a will contest succeeds. Steps you can take to protect your will from a contest after your death include:
Include a no contest clause in your estate. A no contest clause states that if someone contests your will, then that person cannot inherit from your estate. However, no contest clauses can only be enforced in California under very specific, limited circumstances. In many cases, if the court finds that the person had probable cause to contest the will, the person is not disinherited if that person loses his or her battle to contest the will.
Properly execute your will. Improper execution of a will could give someone grounds to contest your will. Even though California recognizes wills that are handwritten and signed without witnesses, it is best to have at least two witnesses sign your will at the same time you execute the will who are not beneficiaries of your estate.
Include a self-proving clause in your will. A self-proving clause is a statement by the witnesses that you (the testator) had the capacity and intent to create the will and there appears to be no undue influence being exercised to force the person to sign the will. A notary public’s signature is also required stating that the information in the affidavit has been sworn to and acknowledged by the witnesses and the testator.
Obtain proof of mental capacity. If you believe that one of your heirs may attempt to contest your will alleging you lacked the mental capacity to execute a will, you might want to obtain at least two written statements from physicians who have examined you and determined you have the mental capacity to execute legal documents. While this will not prevent someone from contesting your will, it could make it much more difficult for the person to succeed in their endeavor.
Discuss your wishes and desires with your family. One of the reasons that family members contest a will is that they believe the terms of the will are not what you intended as your final wishes. Discussing your will with your heirs in a candid fashion may be difficult, but it can reduce the chance of a will contest because an heir believes he or she was to receive an inheritance even though you never made any explicit or implied statements that supported the person’s assumption.
Contact a California Estate-Planning Attorney for Help
Again, one of the best ways to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death is to create a valid will. A California estate-planning attorney can help you avoid mistakes or errors that could give rise to a contest of your will. Your attorney can also help you take additional steps to protect your will and your estate, such as including trust agreements in your estate plan, if you believe that an heir may contest your will after your death. Contact us today for a consultation.