New California Trust Case – The Probate Court Can Order An Accounting Sua Sponte – Christie v. Kimball
Christie v. Kimball (California Court of Appeal, Second District, January 26, 2012), holds that the probate court can order an accounting sua sponte (i.e., on its own initiative) under its general powers and that generally an order compelling an accounting standing alone is not appealable. Let me just say, if there was any doubt, as a general matter, I would like to see judges take more initiative to get the information out there and available. I do note that there was an argument that the person requesting an accounting did not have legal standing for such. The trial court stated that it was not determining that issue (i.e., whether the person was entitled to an accounting), but was ordering an accounting for its own benefit so that the court could determine what was going on. Kind of a slippery slope. Generally I don’t support having to provide an accounting when standing is lacking; however, many trust and estate issues raise equitable issues, such as in cases where there is reliable evidence of possible wrongdoing, undue influence or misappropriation. In many of those situations it is helpful that the court has discretion to act on its own.