When a loved one passes, it is important to adhere to their wishes with regard to their money and property. If they placed their assets in a trust, there may be an administrator of the trust who will handle the dissemination of those assets. The designated administrator of a trust has an obligation to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries of that trust; if they fail to do so, there are several legal courses of action that beneficiaries can pursue.
The administrator’s obligation is referred to as fiduciary duty, which is the obligation to act in someone else’s best interest. A fiduciary duty arises when someone places their trust and confidence in another person, with the knowledge of that person.
Remedies for misuse of assets
When a trust administrator or “trustee” steals or misuses funds from a trust in California, they open the door to a lawsuit. If you can trace stolen funds to the administrator in question, enjoining the funds – which means urgently preventing further interference with the assets – is a dependable option to prevent any further wrongdoing with regard to the trust. One method of enjoining is to request that the court grant a preliminary injunction, which is a court order issued at the beginning of a legal action that forbids the recipient from performing an act – in this case, using the trust funds – in order to maintain the current status until the court reaches a decision.
California Civil Procedure Code permits the court to issue an injunction before the final judgment. The court is also permitted to formally instruct the trustee on the terms of the trust, overriding the trustee’s decisions to date, removing the trustee, or appointing a temporary fiduciary in place of the fiduciary who acted in bad faith. In addition to an injunction, the bank holding the trust can restrict access and activity in the account, preventing the institution from releasing funds without authorization from a judge. The court will have to provide explicit direction to the bank in order for this to work.
Knowledgeable guidance from a California estate planning attorney
Whether you are a trustee, beneficiary, executor, or administrator, Daniel Leahy is prepared to treat your unique situation with sensitivity and attention to detail. At the Law Offices of Daniel Leahy in Oakland, we have the knowledge and experience to handle your trusts and estate issues. Call (510) 985-4151 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.