Asked in Estate Planning, Family Law and Elder Law for California

Q: Can a trustee/attorney refuse to send copies of documents that I signed? Have requested copies and they keep asking why.

I signed documents almost a year ago, under a great deal of jetlag, medical issues, stress, and emotional strain. I wasn't given copies of the documents and in my emotional state forgot to ask for copies. I can't remember what I signed. I have recently requested from the trustee, copies of the documents that I signed. The trustee is an attorney. The trustee knows what documents I signed, as he was there, and I think some of those documents transferred my POA of my relative over to him to be the POA. He won't send the copies of the documents and asks me to list the documents that I want copies of. I want them all and told him I want them for my records as I did not get a copy. Instead of just mailing me copies of everything I signed, he's asked me why I want them and to call him. I do not know what I signed and I do not know what those documents are called, so I am asking the trustee for all. Can he refuse or stall sending me those copies? How do I get those copies?

1 Lawyer Answer
Greg Freeze
Greg Freeze
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Port Townsend, WA
  • Licensed in California

A: If the attorney was acting as your attorney, you can ask for the entire file. By entire file, I referring to all documents, whether the documents span multiple folders or what have you. That's just a duty an attorney has. Normally, it comes with a request to transfer the files to a different attorney.

I've never charged for sending files, but I'm sure there is some statute in California that supports the notion of paying costs for making copies.

But, if he wasn't your attorney, then the duty shrinks. The "why" answer is pretty basic and shouldn't be a great surprise to any attorney--keep a copy of all legal documents that you sign. That's not a very hard answer to a "why" question. You already have the answer to, "what happened that caused you to miss following the rule?" The jet lag, etc. is the why you didn't get the copies.

You likely signed a Resignation as Attorney-in-Fact or some other similarly titled document.

You refer to the attorney as a trustee, so perhaps you also signed a Resignation of Trustee, or Resignation of Successor Trustee. That's if you were taking care of your relative and your relative had a trust.

You might have jumped off the medical power of attorney or advance directive.

If your relative had a will, either as a standalone will or as a pour-over will, you might have resigned in advance for being nominated as the executor, or personal representative using a more modern phrase for it. It's a little strange to resign from something that isn't ripe, meaning, your relative is still living. If your relative has passed, then whatever you may have signed makes more sense because the resignation would be meaningful.

Keep calling and asking. Perhaps he likes phone conversations, and you are depriving him of the opportunity to speak rather than write. You said he said to call, so try that--call.

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