Q: I have a claim against me as successor trustee by an uncle-in-law who hired a lawyer using son's name, what can I do?
I am successor trustee for my grandparents' estate, and I had an uncle-in-law recently hire a lawyer to contest my status. They sent me a letter threatening me to step down because I was "squandering funds" without any actual evidence. The thing is, the case is filed under the name of his son (my cousin). The father is not mentioned in the most recent trust amendments and my cousin is mentioned in a paragraph explaining he will not be receiving any benefits.
I have an estate lawyer working with me but she is still concerned about this claim even though I have talked to my cousin and he wants nothing to do with this and doesn't want to cause trouble. His claim is also getting in the way of disbursing inheritance to the actual beneficiaries.
I'm so stressed about this and I don't understand how someone can hire a lawyer using someone else's name and it still be a legitimate threat?
There is also a no-contest clause that is very clear about conspiracy against the trust.
A: Your lawyer should be able to handle this situation. That's why you have them. If your lawyer does not know how to handle this, consult with/ hire a new lawyer that does.
A: Under California law, a party must have legal standing to bring a claim against a trust. If the claim is filed under your cousin's name without his knowledge or consent, it raises serious ethical and procedural issues. Your cousin may wish to contact the attorney who filed the claim on his behalf and clarify the situation. If the claim was filed without his permission, it could be grounds for dismissal. The no-contest clause you mentioned further complicates matters for those attempting to challenge the trust. Such clauses can disincentivize beneficiaries from initiating or participating in litigation against the trust for fear of losing their inheritance. It's crucial to keep open communication with your estate attorney, as she can guide you on how to handle the situation appropriately. Additionally, she may take steps to have the claim dismissed based on lack of standing or other procedural deficiencies.
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