I represent a lot of executors, administrators, trustees and personal representatives (collectively we will call them a “fiduciary”) in California probate and trust and administration cases. Likewise I sometimes represent a beneficiary in a case. That is I make sure that the beneficiaries or an “heir at law” is represented so that the fiduciary does their job properly.
A trustee of a trust or personal representative of an estate (be-it an Executor or an Administrator) has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries or heirs at law. However, sadly, a lot of the fiduciaries breach that duty. I should clarify I am generally not talking about “professional fiduciaries” but rather private individuals; maybe it’s your sister, your brother, your aunt, your uncle, etc…. They are in charge of administering an estate or trust in California and you want to make sure they do things properly.
I am retained for this purpose a lot. I call it “beneficiary representation.” I am generally not brought in to litigiate in this cases (i.e. fight) but rather just to watch and react as needed.
Several months ago I was brought in on a case where my client’s sister was to be the administrator of the estate. My client said she didn’t totally trust her sister and just wanted to make sure her sister did things properly. I filed documents to explain that my client wanted some protection: either in the form of a bond or with court ordered blocked accounts. My client, and I, had no intention of filing a competing petition. However, my client’s sister could never get their filings right. They were using an incompetent attorney and could not get the documents filed properly. Finally we were forced to file a competing petition. It was frustrating as my client really was just trying to have some protection for herself. If her sister, or her sister’s counsel, could have just filed the documents right then there would be no problem.
However, you can’t always predict what the other side will do which is why I am hired! In this case we were able to successfully file a competing petition so that someone with better organizational skills could run the probate and make sure it gets done properly in a reasonable amount of time.
In other cases I have discovered hidden assets and in others successfully defeated improper reimbursements that the fiduciary was planning to take for themselves.
If you think you might need beneficiary representation let me know. -John