Question

Can I sue for will or trust fraud in California?

View Profile

Answer

Yes. In California, there are several types of will and trust fraud. One common type of trust fraud involves a situation where the trustee engages in self-dealing or other dishonest conduct to the detriment of the beneficiaries of the trust. The trustee of a trust owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust. This means that the trustee must act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. If the trustee does not do so, the beneficiaries can file a lawsuit against the trustee in probate court. In that situation, the beneficiaries can recover monetary damages against the trustee and have the trustee removed by the court and a new trustee inserted in his/her place.

Common examples of trust fraud are: (1) trustee fails to distribute trust assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the trust; (2) trustee engages in self-dealing with respect to trust assets; (3) trustee fails to make prudent investments with trust assets; (4) trustee refuses to provide to beneficiaries an accounting regarding the trust assets; (5) trustee commingles trust assets with his/her personal assets; (6) trustee uses trust assets to pay for personal expenses; and (7) trustee mismanages trust assets, thereby causing overall value of trust assets to decline in value.

With respect to wills, the executor or administrator of a will owes similar duties to the beneficiaries. If an executor or administrator violates those duties, the beneficiaries can file a lawsuit against the executor or administrator in court. The same type of conduct that constitutes trust fraud also constitutes will fraud when done by the executor or administrator of a will.

Another common type of will or trust fraud involves a wrongdoer who coerces a person (most often an elderly person) to change his or her will or trust to benefit the wrongdoer. In most of those situations, the elderly person has dementia or otherwise lacks mental capacity and is an easy target for the wrongdoer. Often, the wrongdoer coerces the elder to make the changes shortly before the elder's death or while the elder is in the hospital. In other situations, the wrongdoer exerts undue influence (excessive persuasion) on the elder to get him or her to change his or her will or trust to benefit the wrongdoer. Elders with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia are very vulnerable to undue influence. When a wrongdoer engages in this type of trust fraud, the trustee or a beneficiary of the valid trust must promptly file a trust contest to invalidate the fraudulent trust in the proper probate court prior to expiration of the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations can be as short as 120 days. Similarly, with respect to will fraud, the executor or a beneficiary of the valid will must promptly file a will contest with the proper probate court to invalidate the fraudulent will and the statute of limitations can be even shorter. That is why it is very important to contact an experienced elder law litigation attorney immediately if you suspect that a friend, relative or family member has been coerced or unduly influenced to change his or her will or trust and is the victim of will or trust fraud.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

Other Answers By This Lawyer

Elder Law

How do I file a Complaint against a nursing home in California?

There are several types of complaint you should consider filing, and I will discuss each in turn.In California, most nursing homes are regulated by …

Answered by: Joel R. Bryant

Other Answers About Elder Law

Elder Law

Can I Get Power of Attorney in California For My Parents If They Can’t Make Decisions?

The simple answer is no. If California, your parents can name you as their Agent under a Power of Attorney, but you cannot get it unless they give it …

Answered by: Sibylle Grebe

Elder Law

Can I sue for elder financial abuse in California?

Suing for financial elder abuse requires first that the claimant is in a legal position to make a claim — he or she must have standing to sue. …

Answered by: Kimberly D. Neilson

Elder Law

What if I suspect elder financial abuse is occurring in California?

You should report it to local agencies tasked with protecting seniors, including but not limited to local law enforcement and Adult Protective …

Answered by: Kimberly D. Neilson

Disclaimer:

If you send a lawyer or law firm email through this service, your email will not create an attorney-client relationship and will not necessarily be treated as privileged or confidential. You should not send sensitive or confidential information via this email service. The lawyer or law firm to whom you are writing may not choose to accept you as a client. Moreover, as the Internet is not necessarily a secure environment it is possible that your email sent via the Internet might be intercepted and read by third parties. Super Lawyers will not retain a copy of this message.

Page Generated: 1.1324381828308 sec