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When You Receive a 120-Day Trust Letter –More Thoughts

by | Oct 31, 2021 | Trust & Estate Litigation, Trust Disputes

Buffington Law Firm’s Trust Litigation team is often contacted by persons who have just received what is commonly referred to as a “120 Day Letter.”  Often this letter creates more questions than answers.  When a loved one dies in California, (or if certain other things occur) if that loved one had created a Revocable (“Living”) Trust, the successor-trustee (“Trustee”) of that trust is required to send what is oft-times called a “120 Day Letter” within 60 days, pursuant to California Probate Code Section 16061.7 and related provisions.  The Trustee is required to send this letter to certain classes of persons, generally all beneficiaries of the Trust, and all “heirs” of the deceased trustmaker whether these “heirs” are beneficiaries of the Trust or not.  An “heir” means an heir-at-law, i.e. anyone who would inherit from that person if the person died intestate (without a testamentary document) such as children, spouse, etc.  [Cal. Prob. Code Section 16061.7(4)].  So generally, all actual beneficiaries and persons who might under ordinary circumstances expect to be beneficiaries (“heirs-at-law”) are supposed to receive the 120 Letter from the Trustee.

If you have received a 120 Day Letter, this is an important event.  This starts the clock running on the very limited period during which you have a right to contest the Trust if you believe that there are grounds for doing so.  The letter will also state that you have a right to ask for and receive a full copy of the Trust.  If you wait until after the time period specified in the letter has elapsed (generally 120 days) you lose the right to challenge the Trust; the 120 Day period functions as a very short Statute of Limitations.  Of course, under so-called “normal” circumstances perhaps no one is going to challenge the Trust.  But this is not always the case.  Sometimes, upon examining the Trust, you find out that a family member or some other person persuaded the Trustmaker to leave a disproportionate share to that very same person, at a time when the Trustmaker was mentally infirm, subject to  undue influence, or outright lacked the mental capacity to make such changes.  This sort of situation is not uncommon.  Of course, most of the time this will not have occurred.  But it does happen.  When it does, it is imperative that you do not delay.

Either way, if you receive a 120 Day Letter pursuant to California Probate Code Section 16061.7, we recommend that you always ask the Trustee to provide you with a full copy of the Trust inclusive of all amendments.  Even if you have a copy of the Trust it is still a good idea to ask the Trustee to provide a copy of the Trust to you — that way you are assured that you are in possession of the complete Trust, the latest version, inclusive of all amendments.  You should review it carefully.  If there is any doubt in your mind as to whether you may wish to contest the Trust do not delay.  Contact and consult with a qualified trust litigation attorney.  Do not wait until the 120 period has nearly elapsed.  Sometimes it takes time to evaluate whether legal action is appropriate.  In a legal context of this sort delay is never good.

If you have received a 120 Letter pursuant to California Probate Code Section 16061.7 and have questions, we invite you to contact Buffington Law Firm for a Free Legal Consultation at 714-450-6568.  All consultations are with a qualified and experienced trust litigation attorney, are protected by attorney-client privilege, and there is never any charge or obligation.

By: Roger J. Buffington, Esq.