Because of their power over a trust, trustees have a legal obligation to act in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries, especially in the state of California. When a trustee fails to uphold these duties, this is considered a breach of trust. But many people wonder, How do you resolve a breach of trust in California? Ultimately, working with a trust contest lawyer in California is of the utmost importance.
At Gokal Law Group, we have helped beneficiaries resolve these transgressions and bring trustees to justice for years. Read our blog to learn how to handle a trustee’s breach of fiduciary duty in California.
What is a Breach of Trust?
First, understand the duties of a trustee so to understand how to a breach of trustee duties in California. These duties are referred to generally as the trustee’s fiduciary duty, which is a legal obligation to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries.
The fiduciary duty ensures trustees act in the best interest of the trust, manage property prudently, maintain accurate records, and keep beneficiaries reasonably informed throughout the process. Per California trust law, trustee duties include:
- Following the terms of the trust document
- Maintaining impartiality
- Avoiding using the trust for the trustee’s benefit
- Avoiding self-dealing
- Keeping trust assets separate
- Enforcing legal claims involving the trust or trust property
- Defending against the claims
How Do You Resolve a Breach of Trust?
If you suspect a trustee has breached their fiduciary duty, you have several options depending on the severity and your situation.
In some cases, a breach of duty is the result of ignorance and not malicious intent. But in most situations, the trustee has abused their power, and working with a trust dispute lawyer to pursue California trust litigation is essential.
Under California Probate Code §16420, if a trustee violates their duty, or even threatens to do so, you can request probate court to:
- Compel the trustee to uphold their fiduciary duty.
- Compel the trustee to remedy their breach via payment or some other means.
- Appoint a temporary trustee to take over the trustee’s duties.
- Remove the trustee.
- Limit the scope of the trustee’s power.
- Reduce or deny the trustee’s pay.
- Surcharge the trustee for any loss or depreciation of the estate resulting from the breach (with interest), any profit made through the breach, or any profit the trust would have gained if the trustee did not commit the breach.
- Compel the trustee to pay damages.
“Breaches of trustee duty are, admittedly, complicated because they can take many forms. For example, maybe the trustee has failed or refused to disclose relevant facts. Or maybe there is a clear conflict of interest or evidence of self-dealing. Understanding what breach of duty has occurred, what legal strategy you should use, and how to prove this breach in court requires considerable expertise.” – Ronald V. Larson, a partner and trust lawyer in orange county at Gokal Law Group with nearly three decades of litigation experience
Premier Trust Litigation Lawyers in Orange County
So, how do you resolve a breach of trust? While you have several options, the first step should always entail working with an Orange County trust lawyer. To protect your inheritance and preserve the integrity of the trust, time is of the essence. Only an expert California trust litigation attorney can assess your situation, determine if a breach has occurred, and help you navigate the complexities of probate court.