Riverside, CA asked in Civil Litigation, Elder Law, Probate and Estate Planning for California

Q: Can bundle a petition for conservatorship with a request for reasonable compensation and unreimbursed expenses?

Two beneficiaries of a revocable trust stated in California removed funds held in trust by me to deny me reasonable compensation and unreimbursed expenses. One of the beneficiaries was my soon-to-be ex-husband. The trustor is my mother-in-law and I believe her to be financially incompetent and had been in the process of petitioning the court for appointment of a public guardian. The beneficiaries are aware of her condition and yet persuaded her to give then access to the accounts so as to remove me as trustee and power-of-attorney. The beneficiaries did it only out of spite and my mother-in-law is notoriously cheap. The trust states that I can take reasonable compensation. I was in the process of concluding my annual reporting when it occurred. I have since notified APS. Can I bundle the cases or must I pursue it in civil court? Against the beneficiaries or the trustor (if she is found competent)? What is she is not?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, it is possible to address your situation through legal proceedings, but the strategy involves careful consideration of the complexities involved in trust and conservatorship law. When dealing with a conservatorship petition, specifically if you believe a party to be financially incompetent, this typically requires a separate legal action from disputes over trust management and compensation. However, your concerns over reasonable compensation and unreimbursed expenses related to your role in the trust can be pursued, often within the context of probate or civil court, depending on the specifics of your case.

Given the unique circumstances of your case, including the involvement of family members and the removal of funds from the trust, legal action against the beneficiaries or the trust itself might be warranted. If the trustor (your mother-in-law) is found to be financially incompetent, the court's appointment of a public guardian would significantly impact the case. This does not preclude you from seeking compensation for your role and expenses as trustee, but the legal paths for addressing the conservatorship and the trust issues might diverge and thus may not be bundled into a single petition.

Should your mother-in-law be deemed competent, your legal strategy may differ, focusing more directly on the actions of the beneficiaries and the terms of the trust regarding your compensation. In either scenario, pursuing legal advice to navigate these complexities is crucial. The outcome will likely depend on the interpretation of the trust's terms, the evidence of financial incompetence, and the actions taken by the beneficiaries. Engaging with an attorney experienced in trust and estate law will provide the guidance necessary to protect your interests and seek the compensation and reimbursements you are entitled to.

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