Someone else claims to be the trustee, should I take her word for it?
Secondly, if Nancy truly did have a trust, and the ex-sister-in-law is now the trustee, she has important fiduciary duties. Whenever a revocable trustA trust which can be modified or terminated by the settlor at any time during the settlor’s lifetime. becomes irrevocable because of the death of a settlorThe individual who creates a trust. of the trust, and whenever there is a change of trustee of an irrevocable trust, the trustee must serve a notification on each beneficiaryA person for whom property is held, e.g., in a trust, or who is to receive something as a result of a legal instrument, e.g., a will or insurance policy. of the irrevocable trust and on each heir of a deceased settlor. (Cal. Prob. Code §16061.7). This notification must be served within sixty (60) days and must contain certain statutorily prescribed information. (Cal. Prob. Code §16061.7). If the ex-sister-in-law is in fact the new trustee of Nancy’s trust, then she needs to serve this notice on Julie or risk being responsible to Julie for damages, attorney’s fees, and costs caused by failing to do so. (Cal. Prob. Code §16061.9). Julie does not have to take the ex-sister-in-law’s word for it.
Additionally, whenever a revocable trust becomes irrevocable because of the death of a settler of the trust, and whenever there is a change of trustee of an irrevocable trust, the trustee must provide a copy of the terms of the trust to each beneficiary of the trust and to each heir of a deceased settlor. (Cal. Prob. Code §16061.5). If the ex-sister-in-law refuses to provide a copy of the trust documents to Julie, then the ex-sister-in-law again risks being held liable to Julie. Again, Julie does not have to take the ex-sister-in-law’s word for it.
With $5 million worth of assets at stake, it would certainly be worth the comparatively small hassle to Julie to demand that the ex-sister-in-law comply with her duties as a trustee. If she refuses to comply, Julie can bring legal action against her to compel her to comply. In addition, Julie should be aware that the ex-sister-in-law’s refusal would be highly suspicious, in addition to her claim that Nancy wrote her only living relative (Julie) out of the trust. There is potential for serious financial damages in Julie’s favor if it turns out that the ex-sister-in-law was trying to take advantage of the situation.
Call David J. Hallstrom at (888) 308-1261 to schedule your consultation.