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Can I Sue a Family Member that is Changing a Trust?

Can I Sue a Family Member that is Changing a Trust?

If you benefit from a trust or if your family member manages a trust, you might wonder when you can sue a family member for changing a trust. Unfortunately, family trust fraud can be a significant problem in California. Your family member might make changes to a trust that you question or that you disagree with. Here’s what you should know about when you can sue a family member for changing a trust in California:

When can you sue a family member for altering a trust?

The family member who manages the trust is called the trustee. They’re the one who makes the decisions about the trust’s assets. The trustee decides where to save and invest the trust assets. They also decide when to make distributions to the beneficiaries.

You can sue a family member if they’re not doing their job according to the terms of the trust. A trustee has discretion in order to make decisions for the trust beneficiaries, but they must follow the terms of the trust. When the trustee doesn’t do their job honestly or competently, the trustee beneficiaries can bring the issue to the court’s attention.  If you are interested in speaking with a California trust litigation attorney start by contacting our office.

What are the trustee’s duties?

A trustee is a fiduciary. That means they stand in place of the beneficiaries to make the decisions for the beneficiary. The trustee must act in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries all times. That doesn’t mean to give the beneficiary whatever they want. It means making sound decisions in all respects for the beneficiary of the trust.

There are several ways that a trustee may commit family trust fraud. They might embezzle the trust’s assets for their own personal use. They might inhibit distributions. A trustee can also fail in their duties by negligently managing the trust’s assets. For example, if they put trust assets in a savings account with low interest instead of making sound investments with the trust, they may be acting negligently. High-risk investments may be another way that a trustee acts negligently as the manager of the trust.

What if the trustee changes conditions on the trust?

One common way that a trust challenge can arise is when a trustee and family member tries to change the conditions of the trust. For example, a trust might have a rule that it’s supposed to pay out when a certain condition is met like graduating high school. If the trustee tells the beneficiary that they won’t make distributions until the beneficiary graduates from college, the trustee is acting outside of the terms of the trust. In that event, you may have a case for violating the terms of the trust.

Generally, a trustee must follow the conditions of the trust. If they’re trying to make unilateral changes that are against your best interests, you can ask the court to intervene. A trustee may act negligently, recklessly or intentionally when they breach their fiduciary duty.

What are the warning signs of fraud or negligence?

The signs of trust mismanagement may not always be obvious. Sometimes, trust fraud can be subtle. As a beneficiary, you have the right to an accounting of the trust’s assets and distributions. If you don’t receive an accounting or if the accounting isn’t complete, you might want to look further.

In addition, if you ask questions or if you ask for an accounting and you receive incomplete or vague answers, those are also signs of trust fraud. Sudden changes in distributions can also be a warning sign. If you suspect that something’s wrong with the trust in your case, an experienced Long Beach trust attorney can help you examine the circumstances and help you investigate.

What are the possible outcomes if I bring a court challenge regarding the trust?

If you bring a claim challenging the trust, both sides have the opportunity to present their case in court. There are a few possible outcomes. The court may remove or replace the trustee. They may appoint a new trustee. The court can order the trustee to make specific distributions from the trust. They can also terminate the trust.

The court listens to the evidence and then makes a decision. It’s important to carefully build the evidence for your court hearing. You can call and question witnesses and present documents. You have a chance to summarize your case in written pleadings as well as make oral arguments to the court. Because the court makes its decisions based on the evidence and arguments before it, it’s important to carefully prepare for court.

Do I have the standing to challenge the trust?

Anyone who stands to win or lose or who otherwise has an interest in the trust has the standing to challenge it. If the beneficiary is a minor, they need a guardian ad litem to represent them and file legal documents on their behalf. The child’s parents generally serve as a guardian for legal proceedings. If parents are unavailable, the courts typically appoint the child’s legal guardian or another representative. Our Long Beach lawyers for challenging trusts can help you apply for guardian ad litem status if your trust involves a minor.

How can a California trust attorney help?

If you have concerns about the management of a trust, our team of experienced trust attorneys in Long Beach can help. We can help you look at the entire situation to determine whether you have the standing to sue your family member regarding management of the trust. We know that it’s a difficult situation, and we want to help. Contact us today for a professional and confidential discussion of your case.

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