Trustee Can Be Sued for Mishandling Fiduciary Responsibility

A trustee has fiduciary responsibilities outlined in the trust and California law. Beneficiaries can sue for breach of duty if the trustee falls short of their obligations.

At Palmer Rodak & Associates, we can help both petitioners and respondents in breach of trustee duty claims.

Trustee’s Fiduciary Responsibilities

All trusts have a named trustee who holds the title to all the property that is part of the trust. They are tasked with managing the assets in the trust for the benefit of its beneficiaries. The trust has language that directs them plus California law outlines a trustee’s legal obligations.

Trustee responsibilities include the following:

  • Administer the trust only in the interests of the beneficiaries
  • Deal impartially with each beneficiary of a trust
  • Act to control and preserve trust assets
  • Use trust assets only for trust purposes and not for personal gain
  • Enforce claims of the trust
  • Defend against legal actions that could harm the trust
  • Keep trust property separate from other property
  • Avoid becoming a trustee for another trust that would conflict with their duties

Trustees are personally liable for any harm they cause beneficiaries.

Legal Standing to File a Lawsuit

A beneficiary can sue a trustee if they believe the trustee has failed at any of their responsibilities. A trustee who fails to make trust distributions, mismanages the trust assets, fails to provide an accounting of trust activities, or other bad conduct can find themselves in legal jeopardy.

Legal remedies can include suspending or removing the trustee and/or awarding the petitioner monetary damages, attorney fees, and court costs.

Like other civil litigation in California, compensation can include compensatory and punitive damages.

Some breaches of trustee duty conduct can lead to criminal charges such as fraud or embezzlement.

Other Disputes Involving Trusts

Disputes among family members regarding a trust are not uncommon. There can be disagreements between co-trustees, fights among beneficiaries, and questions about whether the trust is valid in the first place.

The litigation team at Palmer Rodak & Associates can navigate all these complex issues. In addition to our team, we hire other skilled experts and professionals when needed to craft strong cases for our clients.

Our goal is to resolve issues as quickly and efficiently as possible. Alternative dispute resolution techniques like mediation or arbitration are often effective. We are always prepared to take cases to the courtroom if that serves our client’s best interests.

We can also help clients with probate-related concerns.

Avoid Legal Pitfalls

Trustees are not typically attorneys or accountants, nor are the executors of wills. Their duties can seem overwhelming if they do not have the background to effectively carry out their obligations. Plus, the details can be quite time-consuming. In these cases, hiring an attorney to handle the details of trust administration is a prudent move. The cost of professional assistance is often eligible for reimbursement out of the trust’s assets.

Hiring an attorney can save a trustee tremendous time, energy, and frustration, but the trustee is not absolved of all responsibility.

Resolve Trust & Estate Disputes

Our legal professionals offer experienced counsel in a variety of estate-related matters:

  • Representing beneficiaries who believe a trustee is failing to uphold their duties
  • Representing trustees who are being targeted in a fiduciary breach lawsuit
  • Contesting the validity of a will or trust

When you partner with Palmer Rodak & Associates, you are supported by an entire team of attorneys, paralegals, assistants, and other staff. We have more than 60 years of combined experience.

Learn more about trust and estate litigation in a confidential consultation. You can reach us online or call (760) 573-2223.