Beneficiary Rights in California

If you recently discovered that you are the beneficiary of a trust in California, you may have a number of questions about your newfound status. For example, you may wonder, “What rights do I have as a beneficiary of a trust?” Understanding your rights as a beneficiary is essential because you are entitled to the cash or other assets held in that account.

Understanding Trusts

Trusts can replace or supplement a will, as well as manage one’s property during life. As an estate-planning tool, a trust manages the distribution of a person’s property and assets by transferring its benefits to different people named in the trust. These people are called “beneficiaries.”

When creating a trust, a property owner transfers legal ownership of their property to a person or institution, called a trustee. The trustee manages the property in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries named in the trust. A trust creates a fiduciary relationship between you as the beneficiary and the trustee.

What are Your Rights in California?

A trustee must act solely in the best interests of the beneficiary when handling trust property. As a beneficiary, you should be aware of your rights, so a trustee does not take advantage of their position. Trustees who do not live up to their fiduciary duty may be legally accountable to the beneficiary of a trust for any damage to his or her interests.

In California, the trustee is required to provide an annual accounting to “each beneficiary to whom income or principal is required or authorized in the trustee’s discretion to be currently distributed,” according to state probate code.Additionally, beneficiaries are entitled to an accounting of the trust in the event the trust is terminated or the trustee changes.

An accounting of a trust must satisfy the legal requirements set by the state of California. Trustees must inform beneficiaries of any expenses incurred by the trust as well as any property that has been distributed by the trustee. Beneficiaries must also be informed of the extent of property still held in trust, in addition to any obligations the trustee is required to pay.

What Should You Do if You Feel Your Beneficiary Rights Have Been Violated?

If you are the beneficiary of a trust and feel your rights were violated, talk to Daniel Leahy. Serving Alameda County and the surrounding area, the Law Offices of Daniel Leahy in Oakland can protect your rights. Call (510) 985-4151 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.

Daniel Leahy
About the Author: Daniel Leahy
Daniel J. Leahy specializes in trust and probate litigation. Dan’s practice includes counseling trustees administering trusts and in resolving disputes among beneficiaries and fiduciaries. Dan regularly appears in Bay Area probate courts and handles matters through trial.