Trustee’s Duties In California: What You Need to Know

As a beneficiary to a trust, often the trust is managed by someone else: a trustee. This could be a third party, a family member, or even a professional.  For each type of trustee, there is still a risk of improper management.  By understanding your rights and a trustee’s duties in California, you can protect yourself from self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligence.

Gain a deeper understanding of a trustee’s responsibilities, and reach out to a credible trust lawyer in Orange County if you believe your rights have been breached.

Trustee’s Duties In California

1. Duty to Administer the Trust, According to Its Terms

To start, according to California Probate Code 16000, a trustee undertakes the Duty to Administer the trust according to its terms, or instructions. For the most part, trustees only need to read the trust and its amendments to understand their duties and responsibilities. Oftentimes, conflict arises when a trustee interprets the settlor’s instructions differently than intended – in cases like these, it’s about what the trust maker actually said, rather than what they intended to say. 

2. Duty to Account to the Beneficiaries

Trustees are obliged to carry out accounting for the trust’s beneficiaries. This can be done annually, when there is a change in the trustee, upon termination of the trust, or when ordered to do so by the court. While not all beneficiaries are entitled to an accounting, the court may still force the trustee to deliver it anyways. 

3. Duty to Furnish Information to Beneficiaries

This is among the most common complaints from beneficiaries.  A trustee can often fail to or refuse to release any information about the trust. Since the trustee maintains the duty to inform beneficiaries of a trust and its administration, this is a breach of responsibility. An example is when a trust maker passes away, rendering their revocable trust irrevocable (no longer able to be changed).  The trustee is then required to notify beneficiaries and provide a copy of the irrevocable trust’s terms, to any beneficiary who requests it. 

4. Duty of Confidentiality

Since a trust is designed to be a private tool for family asset management, it’s largely confidential. If a trustee breaches the confidentiality of a trust, they could be subject to full liability. 

5. Duty of Loyalty

The Duty of Loyalty lays the foundation for the rest of the trustee’s duties, trust. In line with California Probate Code 16002(a), it requests that trustees remain loyal to their beneficiaries, and only act in their best interests to avoid conflicts of interest such as self-dealing. This is commonly seen with family members who are beneficiaries themselves, but appointed as trustees, allowing them to harm another beneficiary’s interests for their own gain, if they so choose.

6. Duty to Invest & Make Trust Property Productive

Lastly, the trustee holds the duty of making trust properties productive. In simpler terms, this means that investments, acquisitions, and sales of the trust’s assets must be made prudently and sensibly. Outlandish investments and uninformed property sales, for example, are clear breaches of this fiduciary duty. It’s important to note that accurate tax planning for the trust and its beneficiaries are included in this obligation.

Gokal Law Group: Guarding Your Trust

With a new understanding of trustee duties in California, you’ll know when it’s necessary to seek proper legal action, effectively protecting your trust assets. If you suspect that your trustee has been acting in their own interests, won’t deliver accounting, or isn’t delivering information pertaining to the trust, it could be time to contact an Orange County trust attorney.

Gokal Law Group is a family firm that treats our clients as if they’re our own flesh and blood. We fight for our clients as we would our own children, sisters, brothers, and parents. We are our clients’ warriors, fighting to bring them justice and ultimately right the wrongs they have endured.

Each attorney has a specific practice area for which they are tried, tested, and battle-ready. Each has vast years of experience in their practice area, providing them the knowledge, skills, and vision to fight and win. Learn more about Gokal Law Group, and reach out to our offices for assistance in enforcing or invalidating changes to trusts.

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