If you are facing the prospect of going to court for trust litigation in Santa Monica, California, it likely represents major stress and inconvenience in your life, regardless of which side your interests lie on. Sometimes these cases can drag on for years and even result in you being unable to access funds that are rightfully yours. When you’re facing a serious and complicated issue involving high-value assets, it’s crucial that you meet the challenge by enlisting powerful legal help. Trusts are complex instruments at the crossroads of law and finance, and the only appropriate response for trust-related litigation is finding a trust litigation attorney to represent your side of the issue in court.
Hinojosa & Forer LLP can offer this type of experienced legal help to clients throughout Santa Monica and beyond. Our experienced attorneys and support staff are dedicated to protecting our clients’ interests and achieving favorable outcomes in trust litigation cases, in addition to related matters like estate planning, disputes surrounding wills, and conservatorships. We offer a no-pressure initial consultation to review your legal options and help you determine whether it will be in your interests to retain our high-quality services for your trust dispute or probate case.
“Trust litigation” is a subcategory of law relating to any disputes involving trusts, which are special legal and financial instruments designed to hold assets until specific conditions are met for disbursement. There are many reasons why someone might set up a trust to hold assets, including restructuring tax burdens, putting specific stipulations on inheritances, or keeping assets out of probate court. There are several different types of trusts that can be set up, and with all the potential configurations and clauses, trusts are almost endlessly adaptable.
While the details can be vastly different from trust to trust, they all work in the same fundamental way. Trusts are legally binding arrangements wherein a named trustee (the administrator or manager of the trust) holds valuable assets for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. These assets can consist of anything from the money in a basic bank account to unique tangible property, like a valuable comic book collection or a garage full of classic cars.
Much like any other legal or financial strategy, the process of designing, establishing, implementing, and disbursing trusts can become quite complex. The process of creating and disbursing a trust can take decades—or more. Some are even designed to re-fund themselves into perpetuity through investments so that more funds can be disbursed every year, such as in the case of a scholarship trust.
While trusts and estate plans are intended to minimize court involvement and get funds to beneficiaries as smoothly as possible, their inherent complexities can unfortunately also give rise to disputes among beneficiaries, between beneficiaries and the trustee, or even against the trust itself.
Such disputes can arise for any number of reasons. For example, a relevant party may have legitimate questions about the validity of the documents used to establish the trust. They may feel the need to clear up these points in a court of law before moving ahead with distributing the entrusted assets. On the other end of the spectrum, a greedy would-be heir who was left out of the trust might start making legal motions in bad faith to try to stall or undermine the disbursement process. Trust litigation situations can have many involved parties and moving pieces, often consisting of multiple separate legal issues, such as breach of fiduciary duty, mismanagement of trust assets, or claims between individual beneficiaries. Having a great lawyer on your side is the ideal way to ensure your own rights, assets, and future are well protected throughout such proceedings.
In California, each party is responsible for paying their own legal fees and associated costs in a court case, and this holds true for trust disputes. However, there are some possible exceptions to this rule. If a trust is written in a way that specifically sets aside funds for the payment of such legal fees, for example, the court can use that provision as grounds to order the trustee to withdraw sufficient funds to cover legal fees (in accordance with whatever rules are set forth for doing so in the trust). Additionally, in particularly egregious cases where a party engages in bad faith litigation tactics, breaches their duty, or acts in contempt of court, a judge may order that party to cover the other party’s legal fees.
While it is never absolutely required to have an attorney in California, an experienced trust lawyer can be an invaluable asset when trying to establish, fund, and disburse a trust in California. Therefore, it is highly recommended that anyone dealing with a trust, or trust litigation, work with a qualified attorney who focuses on estate planning, probate court, or financial law issues. Trust law can be quite complex and touch on many other niche areas of law, so having an experienced attorney can ensure that you act with confidence at every step, from properly drafting and filing your trust to ensuring that your named beneficiaries get their assets without any issues when the time comes. Additionally, if a dispute arises, your attorney can provide assertive legal representation and high-quality legal guidance. Working with a trust attorney is a great step towards protecting your assets and reaching your overall estate planning goals.
Trust beneficiaries in California have various rights under the law, including the right to:
If you are experiencing a situation involving assets held in trust, and need to know your full range of legal options, it is highly advisable to contact a qualified attorney immediately.
A trust functions like its own separate legal entity in many ways, similar to a company or a municipal body. For this reason, many people believe it is indeed possible to sue a trust. In most cases, however, you would actually need to sue the trustee rather than the trust itself because its status as a separate legal entity only extends so far. When suing a trustee, it is possible to do so regardless of the nature of the trust, although claims related to irrevocable trusts may indeed bring an entirely different set of issues and challenges. While an irrevocable trust is generally considered to be final, permanently binding, and not subject to change, there are very limited circumstances under which a court may modify or terminate such a trust. For example, if it is revealed that a trust was created under fraudulent circumstances, a judge would be unlikely to enforce the terms of said trust.
At Hinojosa & Forer LLP, our team has extensive experience working with trusts and relevant court cases. We understand the complexities of California estate law and can help you navigate the legal system to achieve a favorable outcome. If you are facing trust litigation in Santa Monica, California, or find yourself needing to sue a trustee, please contact Hinojosa & Forer LLP to schedule a consultation with our experienced trust litigation attorneys.