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Trust Disputes: When You Receive a "120 Day Letter" From a Trustee

Buffington Law Firm's trust litigation attorneys often answer questions from trust beneficiaries when beneficiaries receive a "120 Day Letter" from a Successor-Trustee of a trust.  Generally, this letter will advise the beneficiaries (in rather obtuse language) that the Trust has become "irrevocable," that they have a right to receive a copy of the Trust, and that they have a limited time to "contest" the trust following their receipt of the letter.  This letter can be very important in the context of trust disputes.

These letters derive from a specific provision in the California Probate Code; specifically Cal. Probate Code Section 16061.7(a)(1). This statute provides that a trustee must serve notice to all beneficiaries when the trust becomes irrevocable due to the death of the settlors. Under subsection (h) of that Code section, the notification must state:

"You may not bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date this notification by the trustee is served upon you or 60 days from the date on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to you during that 120-day period, whichever is later."

Pursuant to Section 16061.8: No person upon whom the notification by the trustee is served pursuant to this chapter, whether the notice is served on him or her within or after the time period set forth in subdivision (f) of Section 16061.7, may bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date the notification by the trustee is served upon him or her, or 60 days from the day on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to him or her during that 120-day period, whichever is later

In plain language what is going on here is that a Trustee that sends a Probate Code Section 16061.7(a)(1) letter is trying to start the countdown on the window during which Trust beneficiaries can challenge any provision of the Trust.  If the beneficiaries have no such intention, this letter still can be important because it advises them that the Trust is irrevocable (i.e. the makers of the trust have passed, and the Trust can no longer be changed) and that a new person is acting as successor-trustee.

If there is something about the Trust that merits a legal response, when you receive one of these letters, time is critical.  Perhaps you suspect that the Trust was altered by undue influence upon the settlor.  Perhaps there are other issues that merit a response such as a suspicious amendment to the Trust.  In such a case you should promptly seek legal counsel.  If you are in this situation, we recommend that you immediately set up a no-obligation free legal consultation to speak directly to one of our experienced Trust dispute litigation attorneys.  In this meeting we can review your situation and recommend a course of action.

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