Family conflict is never easy. When those conflicts rise to the level of litigation, as they sometimes do in estate and trust matters, raw emotions, hurtful allegations, and complicated financial and legal issues can have long-term consequences.
At Yee Law Group, PC, we understand the sensitive nature of these disputes, and we understand the law. Whether your conflict involves a trust, charitable gift, last will and testament, or accounting dispute, we will handle your case with respect, compassion, and exceptional skill. Yee Law Group, PC founder Kent Meyer has experience in every aspect of trust and estate matters, understands the fiduciary obligations that trustees and administrators have, and can recognize when those obligations have not been met. We help fiduciaries, beneficiaries, and corporate trustees navigate the complex issues that arise in estate and trust litigation.
Claims of Trustee Malfeasance and Misconduct
Trusts are designed to provide peace of mind and to ensure that our loved ones are taken care of after we are gone. Unfortunately, trusts are not immune from mismanagement and abuse. When trustees violate their authority or fail to live up to their fiduciary obligations, beneficiaries suffer. Common allegations include:
- Claims of inadequate or irregular distributions of funds;
- Mismanagement of trust assets on the part of the trustee;
- Illegal disposal of trust assets;
- Diversion of assets to the trustee;
- Undue influence;
- Conflicts of interest in the management of the trust.
5 Questions You Might Have About Trustee Malfeasance and Misconduct
The trustee plays an important role in the administration of the estate, but they also have some additional responsibilities that apply to the trust as well. The trustee’s responsibilities include ensuring that your wishes are followed and seeing to it that your property and money are protected as best as possible. A trustee who does not follow through on these duties may be guilty of trustee malfeasance or misconduct and could be held liable in a lawsuit by you or by the beneficiaries of the trust.
1) What Are Some Examples of Trustee Malfeasance?
Often, examples of trustee malfeasance center around concerns about gifts. For example, a trustee might take something that doesn’t belong to him or her — such as cash from an estate — and buy a gift for his or her spouse with it. Another example is when a trustee makes unwise investments on behalf of beneficiaries in an estate and loses money. However, in other cases, beneficiaries might bring a lawsuit against trustees over gifts they’ve made to charities rather than family members.
2) How Can I File a Complaint Against My Trustee?
Filing a complaint against your trustee could be a first step in correcting an issue within your trust. If you suspect that something about your trust is unlawful, you may have options for pursuing legal action. It’s best to speak with an experienced attorney before taking any action so that you can get some professional advice on how to proceed.
3) What Happens if I Complain?
Complaining is a good first step, but make sure you understand where your complaint will go. For example, if you make a complaint about your current trustee directly to your state’s Office of Probate Court Administration (OPCA), it can be shared with other parties unless confidentiality is protected. It’s also important to know that this office does not have the power to remove the trustee or force them to do anything differently. The office might recommend mediation as an option for resolving conflicts between the trustor and their trustee, but in most cases they won’t take any steps themselves without going through the proper legal channels.
4) Who Investigates the Complaints Against Trustees?
Though every complaint is different, most states have an agency that handles trustee malfeasance and misconduct. But not all states’ attorneys general will pursue these complaints, and some state laws say that if a complaint involves a living trust, it must be investigated by a local district attorney or county attorney. Some District Attorneys will refuse to take on cases of trustee misconduct; they’ll tell you it’s an administrative issue beyond their scope. While there are exceptions to every rule, whether or not your complaint against your trustee will be investigated is something you should find out before filing a formal legal complaint against your trustee.
5) What Are some Ways to Protect Myself from Trustee Malfeasance?
With many trustees acting in a fiduciary capacity, it can be easy to forget that they might be able to abuse their power for personal gain. When selecting your successor trustee, ask them if they have been convicted of any crimes involving fraud or dishonesty. If the answer is yes, ask them why and if they are eligible for expungement. If the answer is no, make sure that your trust document contains language limiting the rights of the successor trustee so that he or she does not have complete control over assets without judicial oversight.
Contact a living trust lawyer at Yee Law Group, P.C. today for help!
How We Can Help
Our extensive knowledge of the intricacies of both law and accounting gives us an advantage other firms can’t match. We know what can go wrong in a trust, and when it does, how to investigate and pursue trust contest cases. In the event that a trust has been mismanaged or the trustees have not upheld their duties, we can help remedy the situation depending on the nature of the wrongs that the trustee has committed as well as the goals of the beneficiary. We can seek to obtain a full and objective accounting of the trust’s activities, compel distribution of trust funds in accordance with the provisions of the trust and/or remove one or more trustees. In cases where the information we gather exposes fraud, deceit, and wrongdoing, we help our clients receive the compensation they deserve.
Yee Law Group, PC: Trust & Estate Litigation
When you meet with us to discuss your concerns about a trust or estate matter, Dr. Meyer and our entire team will work closely with you to ensure that responsibilities are met, improper conduct is exposed, and assets are protected and accounted for. We provide responsive, accessible, and plain-spoken counsel.
Contact a Living Trust Lawyer Roseville CA Trusts
Wills vs. Living Trusts: What’s the Difference?
You might already be familiar with wills and trusts, but a living trust lawyer in Roseville, California, can answer any questions you may have about the two. At Yee Law Group, P.C., we know that planning your estate can be an overwhelming process, but we’re always ready to clear up any misinformation and questions you might have about wills and trusts – and we’re happy to help you decide which is best for your needs.
Wills and trusts (also known as living trusts, for reasons we’ll explain a few paragraphs later) both share the same goal: They’re intended to provide instructions for your loved ones after you’ve died. But how do you know which is right for you?
At its core, a will is a list of assets (everything you own, from properties and cars, to cash and debt) and beneficiaries (friends and family members who will be receiving your assets after you die). The contents of a will are distributed according to your instructions, but it’s not as simple as saying person 1 gets assets X, Y, and Z. Instead, your estate needs to go through probate.
Probate is a lengthy process by which a specially appointed court (called a probate court) handles how your estate is divided amongst your family and friends. You might have left instructions, but without a probate court’s involvement, the instructions in your will aren’t legally followed until every asset is properly documented, every debt is paid, and (of course) the estate tax has been paid as well.
Unfortunately, probate can be a rocky time for everyone involved. You might have heard horror stories about vindictive or greedy ex-spouses swooping in to take a cut of a sizable estate – it’s a distinct possibility with probate. Probate can take several months to complete, and by the time the process is finally done, what’s left of your estate might not seem worth the trouble.
There is a definite upside to wills, however: They’re easier to create. A will is created and stored away, and only goes into effect after you’ve died. You won’t be around to deal with the probate process, and once your will is completed, you won’t have to be as involved as you would be with a living trust.
A trust is a bit more complicated than a will, but there’s a reward for the additional effort: If you’ve created a trust, your beneficiaries won’t have to go through probate, and you can avoid estate taxes with a trust as well. This is especially appealing when you consider that federal estate tax can be as high as 40%!
Unlike a will, a trust is active the moment you’ve created it. This is why a trust is called a living trust: You’re living while it is active. With a trust, you’re putting your estate in the hands of a third party after you die. Assets are assigned to each beneficiary, and there’s much less room for arguing and infighting. A living trust lawyer in Roseville, CA can provide all the information you need on how to designate these beneficiaries.
However, because trusts are active the moment they’re created, they also require active management. You’ll need to add and remove assets as needed from your trust while you’re still alive, a problem that isn’t really present with wills. In short, a will is easier to deal with before you die, but can be a pain for your beneficiaries, and a trust is the opposite: A trust requires management while you’re alive, but provides a much more streamlined and easier process for your beneficiaries.
Reach Out to Yee Law Group, P.C.
There are always many questions about wills and trusts, and the right attorney can walk you through the answers. Reach out to Yee Law Group, P.C. today, and get in touch with an experienced living trust lawyer in Roseville, CA today.