Understanding Your Rights as a Beneficiary in California

If you’ve been named the beneficiary of a decedent’s assets in California, you have certain rights that the trustee or executor must follow. If the decedent had a Will but no trust, the estate must go through probate before you can access your portion of the estate. However, if the decedent placed their assets in a trust and named a trustee prior to their death, the process is often much shorter.

Annual Accounting and Other Accounting Updates

When establishing a trust, the testator chooses someone they expect to reasonably manage the trust and act in the best interests of beneficiaries. In some cases, though, the trustee acts in their own interest and tries to obscure their actions from beneficiaries. That’s why beneficiaries have the right to ask for an annual accounting of the trust and all transactions made from it. Furthermore, if you believe the trustee has stolen from the trust or overstated trust expenses to benefit themselves, you may request account updates at any time through the court. The trustee is required to provide them.

Getting a Copy of the Trust

The trust includes information on the assets it holds and how they are to be disbursed to the beneficiaries. Many beneficiaries do not know that they have a right to this information. When you get a copy of the trust, you can ensure that the trustee is administering the trust as it’s written. Having this information also gives you legal standing to petition the court if the trustee refuses to pay out your assets.

This falls into one of the greater rights enjoyed by beneficiaries in California: the right to information about the trust. The law requires the trustee to keep beneficiaries reasonably informed.

Ensuring That the Trust is Properly Administered

In California, beneficiaries can request information regarding the administration of the trust as it relates to the beneficiary’s interests. With a few exceptions, the trustee must furnish all relevant documents and records. Not only does this allow you to catch mishandling of the trust before the trustee completely drains it, it also serves as a deterrent against abuse on the part of the trustee. Knowing that beneficiaries will exercise their rights is often enough to dissuade a trustee from fraudulently handling the trust.

If you’re set to inherit assets from a trust or estate, it’s important to know your rights and hold the trustee or executor accountable for how they manage the assets. If you have reason to believe an executor or trustee is abusing their position, it’s time to call an attorney. Reach out to MMZ Law at 909-256-6702 to discuss your options.

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