Can You Sue a Trustee for Negligence in California?

When someone is named trustee, this is a sign of confidence in their ability and integrity in managing a person’s estate and property. However, managing and administering a trust is incredibly complex. It requires a trustee to adhere to probate law and uphold their fiduciary duty. If they fail to perform this balancing act, it can have serious consequences. Still, violating this duty isn’t always a malicious act. Sometimes, it is the result of negligence or ignorance of these obligations, and many beneficiaries like you come to us asking, Can you sue a trustee for negligence? Yes, you can, and we’re here to explain it to you.

At Gokal Law Group, we have helped countless beneficiaries enforce their probate rights and successfully recovered millions of dollars in settlements and trial verdicts for clients when trustees fail to do their job. Here’s when you can sue a trustee for negligence. 

Can You Sue a Trustee for Negligence in California?

Several grounds exist for you to sue a trustee, the majority of which stem from a breach of their fiduciary duty. In some instances, negligence can be considered a breach of duty, too. But when can you sue a trustee for negligence

Negligence can easily become a breach of fiduciary duty. Typically, negligence is unintentional, but the consequences can be severe. Essentially, trustee misconduct can encompass a wide range of transgressions, both intentional and unintentional, that the trustee commits which results in a loss of trust assets. 

As a beneficiary, the trustee must put your interests and the interests of the trust above all their own. Negligence becomes a breach of fiduciary duty when it results in a lack of attention, ability, or care to properly administer the trust and manage assets. 

For example, a trustee has the responsibility to ensure a trust remains profitable. If they make any decisions, whether it’s investing trust assets or mismanaging property, that results in a loss of profit, this could be grounds for a lawsuit. 

Negligence is often the result of a lack of care and a trustee not understanding their responsibilities, and it can result in a direct violation of the trustee’s duty of loyalty and duty of care to the beneficiaries. Examples of negligence can include a trustee:

  • Failing to administer the trust per the trust document
  • Failing to act in the beneficiaries’ best interest
  • Failing to maintain impartiality and treat all beneficiaries fairly
  • Failing to keep beneficiaries informed
  • Using trust assets for their gain
  • Wasting trust assets
  • Filing tax returns for the trust late
  • Failing to make prudent investment or business decisions with trust assets
  • Failing to make the trust profitable
  • Failing to sell or rent trust property for market value
  • Commingling trust property with personal assets
  • Failing to enforce claims or defend against legal actions involving the trust

Depending on the situation, the court can rule in favor of suspending or removing and replacing the trustee, or they could even rule in favor of making the negligent trustee pay for damages, court costs, and legal fees.

“When a trustee’s negligence becomes a breach of fiduciary duty, it’s not always  intentional. In fact, this is often the result of an incapable trustee as opposed to an exploitative trustee who might have malicious, self-serving motives and commit an offense like fraud or embezzlement. Regardless, this is still a severe offense, and beneficiaries should always sue negligent trustees for damages to protect their inheritance and the trust when necessary.

Nicholas D. Porrazzo, Partner & Trust Litigation Lawyer, Gokal Law Group

Related Article: How Do I Sue a Trustee with an Orange County Trust Litigation Attorney?

Has a Trustee Violated Their Fiduciary Duty? Contact Us to Enforce Your Rights and Defend Your Inheritance.

So, can you sue a trustee for negligence? You have every right to sue a negligent trustee if their negligence is hurting the trust or your inheritance. If you are in a position where you might have to sue a trustee for negligence, contacting a trust litigation attorney immediately to go over your situation is essential.

Visit our Contact Page to schedule a free consultation and enforce your rights. Trust us to safeguard your trust!


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