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Living Trust Disputes — What to Look For

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2019 | Trust Disputes

Buffington Law Firm’s living trust litigation attorneys have more than two decades of experience in handling trust disputes.  In this brief Blog article we will touch on a few of the more common causes for trust disputes.

Over the past twenty or thirty years, Californians have largely moved away from simple wills in favor of living trusts as a means of conveying the family’s wealth to the next generation.  Living trusts are designed to avoide probate and keep the inheritance process away from lawyers and out of the court system.  This is a terrific goal.  Unfortunately, sometimes this process goes awry thereby requiring legal intervention (which may not always mean court action).

1.  Misbehaving Trustees.  One of the main causes of trust disputes involves misbehaving trustees.  Buffington Law Firm’s trust litigation attorneys have dealt with many circumstances in which the successor-trustee of a trust (the person in charge of the trust after the trustmaker passes away) simply misbehaves in a way requiring legal action.  Sometimes the new trustee refuses to distribute the assets in accordance with the trust provisions.  We have seen cases where the trustee paid him or her self huge trustee fees, thereby giving the trustee a hugely disproportionate share of the estate.  Sometimes trustees seek to “self deal” and “buy” trust assets at knock-down prices to the detriment of the other beneficiaries.  Perhaps the worst sign of a misbehaving trustee is secretiveness — where the trustee simply refuses to share information with the beneficiaries.  

2.  Rogue Trusts or Rogue Trust Amendments.  One depressingly common scenario is one in which someone, often a family member, gets to an ailing, often mentally weak (or even incompetent) trustmaker and either has that person create a whole new trust, or a trust amendment, which disproportionately benefits him or her to the detriment of the other beneficiaries — often to their complete exclusion as beneficiaries.  Buffington Law Firm’s trust dispute attorneys have frequently dealt with this scenario.  

3.  Delay Delay Delay.  Sometimes successor-trustees simply delay either providing information to beneficiaries or simply “sit on” trust assets for a protracted time.  In our experience this is almost always a bad sign.  We have encountered scenarios in which the trustee moved into a trust-owned residence with plans to live there for a long time, even indefinitely, rent-free.  There are many variations on this theme.

These are just a few of the more common fact patterns that sometimes result in trust disputes.  If you believe that you are faced with a possible living trust dispute we invite you to contact us for a free legal consultation.