Asked in Probate and Estate Planning for California

Q: Can a trustee use the "changed circumstances" doctrine to remove me from an irrevocable trust by defunding it?

Domicile is in California. Dad is 91 and the trustee. Funds have been removed from irrevocable trust in which myself and two brothers were to be equally compensated. He appointed the proceeds of the real estate to himself and his own trust but never recorded anything. He never gave a copy of the trust, notification, transfers, annual accounting. Nothing. It's been 8 years of lies to me and the trustee did not follow any notification laws or even tell me I was in a trust. My mother was sick with brain cancer when they had her sign things. My older brother got my mother very upset by taking the profits from a house investment years earlier and leaving them with the taxes so he was not included in the original trust to be a successor co-trustee. Her intentions were to leave her three children an equal share. They tricked her into signing or modifying it. She was not cognitive. He has made distributions to both brothers and their children from the second trust. What should I do?

Related Topics:
1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, a trustee cannot arbitrarily remove a beneficiary from an irrevocable trust by invoking the "changed circumstances" doctrine to defund it. Such trusts are typically designed to be unalterable, and the trustee's role is to manage the trust assets according to the terms set by the grantor.

If funds have been removed improperly or the trustee has failed to follow legal obligations, including providing necessary notifications and accounting, this could constitute a breach of fiduciary duty.

In your situation, concerns about your mother's cognitive state when making modifications and the trustee's actions suggest potential legal violations. It's essential to consult with an attorney to explore your legal options. This may include petitioning for a court review of the trust's administration, challenging any modifications made under questionable circumstances, and seeking appropriate remedies for any breaches of duty by the trustee. Legal guidance is crucial given the complexity of trust law and the specific details of your case.

1 user found this answer helpful

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.