What documents does a trustee provide relating to the Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 notice requirements?

The following discussion is about the requirements of California Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8, and what documents must be provided by the trustee if the trustee voluntarily provides copies of documents, such as with the section 16061.7/16071.8 notice, or if a beneficiary or heir requests copies of documents. Upon request, or voluntarily if the trustee so elects, the trustee is required to provide copies of the terms of the trust. Below I have copied and pasted parts of a legal discussion on this topic, without the specific facts of the situation – so the below discussion is rather dry, but you can envision that documents and what they say can and will vary from case to case. Immediately below is an overall summary based on reading the statutes, case law, and legislative committee history. Further below I have summarized the statutes, a few cases on legislative intent, and some of the legislative committee comments.  You can ignore the underline and bold in the below materials – those were added in the original materials, but they are not necessarily relevant for this discussion. Fun reading. This is or should be an important topic of discussion for trustees, beneficiaries, estate planning attorneys, estate/trust administration attorneys, and Judges. David Tate, Royse Law Firm, Menlo Park Office but with offices in northern and southern California.

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California Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 provide that a trustee shall provide beneficiaries and heirs with a notice, and with the “terms of the trust” either voluntarily or upon request, and that if the trustee timely and completely does so, beneficiaries and heirs are then required to make a decision whether to contest the trust within the allowable time period. The provisions and requirements of §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 are important, and any waiver of the notice and information providing requirement is against public policy, particularly in light of the 120-day limitation deadline for filing a contest action. As no two trusts and trust situations are identical, the application of §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8, including whether the trustee has satisfied those requirements must be a factual determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis, based on the facts of the case and the requirements of Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 as provided therein and the legislative intent.

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In relevant part, California Probate Code §16061.7 requires that:

(a) A trustee shall serve a notification by the trustee as described in this section in the following events:

(1) When a revocable trust or any portion thereof becomes irrevocable because of the death of one or more of the settlors of the trust, or because, by the express terms of the trust, the trust becomes irrevocable within one year of the death of a settlor because of a contingency related to the death of one or more of the settlors of the trust.

(2) Whenever there is a change of trustee of an irrevocable trust.

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(b) The notification by the trustee required by subdivision (a) shall be served on each of the following:

(1) Each beneficiary of the irrevocable trust or irrevocable portion of the trust, subject to the limitations of Section 15804.

(2) Each heir of the deceased settlor, if the event that requires notification is the death of a settlor or irrevocability within one year of the death of the settlor of the trust by the express terms of the trust because of a contingency related to the death of a settlor.

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(e) The notification by trustee shall be served by mail to the last known address, pursuant to Section 1215, or by personal delivery.

(f) The notification by trustee shall be served not later than 60 days following the occurrence of the event requiring service of the notification by trustee, or 60 days after the trustee became aware of the existence of a person entitled to receive notification by trustee, if that person was not known to the trustee on the occurrence of the event requiring service of the notification. If there is a vacancy in the office of the trustee on the date of the occurrence of the event requiring service of the notification by trustee, or if that event causes a vacancy, then the 60-day period for service of the notification by trustee commences on the date the new trustee commences to serve as trustee.

(g) The notification by trustee shall contain the following information:

(1) The identity of the settlor or settlors of the trust and the date of execution of the trust instrument.

(2) The name, mailing address and telephone number of each trustee of the trust.

(3) The address of the physical location where the principal place of administration of the trust is located, pursuant to Section 17002.

(4) Any additional information that may be expressly required by the terms of the trust instrument.

(5) A notification that the recipient is entitled, upon reasonable request to the trustee, to receive from the trustee a true and complete copy of the terms of the trust.

(h) If the notification by the trustee is served because a revocable trust or any portion of it has become irrevocable because of the death of one or more settlors of the trust, or because, by the express terms of the trust, the trust becomes irrevocable within one year of the death of a settlor because of a contingency related to the death of one or more of the settlors of the trust, the notification by the trustee shall also include a warning, set out in a separate paragraph in not less than 10-point boldface type, or a reasonable equivalent thereof, that states as follows:

You may not bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date this notification by the trustee is served upon you or 60 days from the date on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to you during that 120-day period, whichever is later.”

(i) Any waiver by a settlor of the requirement of serving the notification by trustee required by this section is against public policy and shall be void. (Underline and bold added)

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California Probate Code §16061.8 provides that:

“No person upon whom the notification by the trustee is served pursuant to this chapter, whether the notice is served on him or her within or after the time period set forth in subdivision (f) of Section 16061.7, may bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date the notification by the trustee is served upon him or her, or 60 days from the day on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to him or her during that 120-day period, whichever is later.” (Underline and bold added)

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As used in §§16061.7 and 16061.8, and throughout Article 3 which includes Probate Code §§16060 through 16069, pursuant to Probate Code §16060.5 the term “terms of the trust” means:

“ . . . the written trust instrument of an irrevocable trust or those provisions of a written trust instrument in effect at the settlor’s death that describe or affect that portion of a trust that has become irrevocable at the death of the settlor. In addition, “terms of the trust” includes, but is not limited to, signatures, amendments, disclaimers, and any directions or instructions to the trustee that affect the disposition of the trust. “Terms of the trust” does not include documents which were intended to affect disposition only while the trust was revocable. If a trust has been completely restated, “terms of the trust” does not include trust instruments or amendments which are superseded by the last restatement before the settlor’s death, but it does include amendments executed after the restatement. “Terms of the trust” also includes any document irrevocably exercising a power of appointment over the trust or over any portion of the trust which has become irrevocable.” (Underline and bold added)

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It is well-known that some trustees and trust administration attorneys play games with the statutory notice requirement – some trustees intentionally or by ignorance fail to provide required disclosure or they try to keep the true terms of the trust secret from the recipient beneficiaries and heirs, whereas other trustees and their administration attorneys endeavor to provide full notice and disclosure. One might ask, why would a trustee not provide full disclosure? The answers are simple, for example, the trustee has an ulterior primary motive, or the trustee favors certain beneficiaries or heirs over other beneficiaries or heirs, or the trustee believes that the beneficiary or heir will be less likely to contest the trust if he or she does not have full information, or the trustee is simply mistaken.

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Statutes are to be interpreted in accord with the intent of the Legislature. The fundamental task of statutory construction is to determine and follow the legislative intent so as to effectuate the purpose of the law, including both the policy expressed in its terms and the object implicit in its history should be recognized. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §1859; People v. Cruz (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 764, 774-775; Walnut Creek Manor v. Fair Employment & Housing Commission (1991) 54 Cal. 3d 245, 268; In re Schaefer (1981) 116 Cal. App. 3d 588, 597. Determining legislative intent is to be the fundamental, cardinal rule of statutory construction. Tyrone v. Kelley (1973) 9 Cal. 3d 1, 10-11.The object that a statute seeks to achieve and the evil that it seeks to prevent are of prime consideration in its interpretation. Sierra Club v. City of Hayward (1981) 28 Cal. 3d 840, 860-861; Dubins v. Regents of University of California (1994) 25 Cal. App. 4th 77, 83. When the Legislature enacts a remedial statute, courts must construe it liberally to promote its purposes, to protect the persons within its purview, and to suppress the mischief within its spirit and policy. Tetra Pak, Inc. v. State Board of Equalization (1991) 234 Cal. App. 3d 1751, 1756. Courts consider legislative history as an extrinsic aid to help elucidate legislative intent. City of San Jose v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal. 4th 47, 54; Jevne v. Superior Court (2005) 35 Cal. 4th 935, 948; District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) 554 U.S. 570, 605. Courts also look to legislative history to confirm the Court’s reading of the statute- common sense suggests that inquiry into statutory construction benefits from reviewing additional information rather than ignoring it. Samantar v. Yousuf (2010) 560 U.S. 305, 315-323; Wisconsin Pub. Intervenor v. Mortier (1991) 501 U.S. 597, 611-612 n.4.

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In this case a Senate Judiciary Committee Report with the date September 5, 1997, states (and other Committee Reports similarly state), for example:

“SECTION 23 — Trustee Notification — Probate Code Sections 16061.5 and 16061.7

Existing law requires a trustee, upon reasonable request by a beneficiary, to provide the beneficiary with certain information about the trust and its administration relevant to the beneficiary’s interest in the trust.

This bill would require trustees to notify beneficiaries of a trust by mail or personal delivery when there is a change of trustees and notify beneficiaries and heirs of whom they have actual knowledge when a revocable trust become irrevocable.

The sponsor asserts that the experience of practitioners is that failure to notify beneficiaries of the existence or terms of trusts frequently leads to or exacerbates conflict between trustees and beneficiaries. It is also increasingly common for persons to use revocable as will substitutes. In these cases, the sponsor believes that prompt notification of the heirs of a deceased settlor will reduce the incidence of trustees concealing trust assets and even the existence of trusts.”

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And further, an apparently early in the legislative process or initial Assembly Committee on Judiciary Report also states, for example:

“SEC. 32 & 33 – – Trustee Notification – – Probate Code §§16061.5 and 16061.7

Existing law requires a trustee, upon reasonable request by a beneficiary, to provide the beneficiary with certain information about the trust and its administration relevant to the beneficiary’s interest in the trust. In spite of this requirement, the experience of practitioners is that failure to notify beneficiaries of the existence or terms of trusts frequently leads to or exacerbates conflict between trustees and beneficiaries.

This bill would clarify the statutory mandate on trustees by requiring them to notify beneficiaries of a trust when there is a change of trustees and notify beneficiaries and heirs when a revocable trust becomes irrevocable.”

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The Cal. Probate Code §82 definition of the term “trust” includes “additions thereto”:

California Probate Code §82 states as follows:

(a) “Trust” includes the following:

(1) An express trust, private or charitable, with additions thereto, wherever and however created.

See also Townsend v. Townsend (2009) 171 Cal. App. 4th 389, 405, in which the court held that the Probate Code §82 definition of the term “additionsincludes “additions of property to the Trust.”

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Further, an “instrument” means a will, trust, deed, or other writing that designates a beneficiary or makes a donative transfer. California Probate Code §45.

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Probate Code provisions pertaining to powers of appointment can be found at Probate Code §§600-695, in particular §640 (manifestation of intent), §650 (general power of appointment) and §651 (special power of appointment).

 

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New California case expands shifting trust/trustee attorneys’ fees and costs to a beneficiary’s share of the trust

New California trust dispute decision expands shifting trust/trustee attorneys’ fees and costs to a beneficiary’s share of the trust – Pizarro v. Reynoso, California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, Case No. C077594, (March 28, 2017)

Summary. The decision in Pizarro v. Reynoso expands the shifting of trust/trustee attorneys’ fees and costs to a beneficiary’s trust share, and in relevant part reminds us that all trust and estate litigation cases vary and are determined in significant part by the facts and circumstances of that case, the relevant case law, and the discretion of the trial court judge. In Pizarro v. Reynoso, on appeal the Court of Appeal held as follows:

  1. The terms and intent of the trustor prevail in substance – refusing to elevate form over substance the court upheld a sale of the trust real property to a specific beneficiary which the trust authorized in the trustee’s discretion if the beneficiary could afford to purchase the house. The trustee in fact in part assisted the beneficiary in that purchase so that the beneficiary could purchase the property – never the less the court upheld the sale based on substance over form and the intent and terms of the trust.
  2. Under the court’s equitable powers, the attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the trust/trustee are chargeable against the trust share of a beneficiary who brings an unfounded proceeding against the trust, but those attorneys’ fees and costs cannot be awarded against the beneficiaries other personal non-trust assets, citing Rudnick v. Rudnick (2009) 179 Cal. App. 4th 1328, 1332-1333, 1335, and Estate of Ivey (1994) 22 Cal. App. 4th 873, 877-878, 882-886.
  3. Important – in an expansion of #2 above and charging fees and costs to a beneficiary’s trust share, under those same equitable powers, the court also can award the trust/trustee attorneys’ fees and costs against the trust share of a beneficiary who has not filed or brought a proceed, but who takes an unfounded position and litigates in bad faith causing the trust to incur fees and costs (the beneficiary changed her position to being against the trustee, and in the trial court’s opinion then offered false testimony by declaration, deposition and at trial – offering false evidence in litigation is a bad faith litigation tactic).
  4. The court’s decision also cites or makes reference to California Probate Code §17211(a) and §15642(d), which state as follows (and I have also provided below §17211(b):

17211(a)

(a) If a beneficiary contests the trustee’s account and the court determines that the contest was without reasonable cause and in bad faith, the court may award against the contestant the compensation and costs of the trustee and other expenses and costs of litigation, including attorney’s fees, incurred to defend the account. The amount awarded shall be a charge against any interest of the beneficiary in the trust. The contestant shall be personally liable for any amount that remains unsatisfied.

(b) If a beneficiary contests the trustee’s account and the court determines that the trustee’s opposition to the contest was without reasonable cause and in bad faith, the court may award the contestant the costs of the contestant and other expenses and costs of litigation, including attorney’s fees, incurred to contest the account. The amount awarded shall be a charge against the compensation or other interest of the trustee in the trust. The trustee shall be personally liable and on the bond, if any, for any amount that remains unsatisfied.

15642(d)

(d) If the court finds that the petition for removal of the trustee was filed in bad faith and that removal would be contrary to the settlor’s intent, the court may order that the person or persons seeking the removal of the trustee bear all or any part of the costs of the proceeding, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

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Updated (02172017) California Trustee And Beneficiary Responsibilities And Rights – Please Use It, And Tell Others

Below I have provided a link to my updated (02172017) paper California Trustee and Beneficiary Responsibilities and Rights. Please use it, and pass it along and tell other people who would be interested.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq., Royse Law Firm, Northern and Southern California, 149 Commonwealth Drive, Ste. 1001, Menlo Park, CA 94025, (650) 813-9700, Extension 233, http://www.rroyselaw.com. My practice includes civil and probate court litigation (business, real estate, trusts and estates, employment, IP, D&O, serious personal injury, elder abuse, etc., and representing fiduciaries and beneficiaries, and audit committees and D&O.

Here is the link to the updated California Trustee and Beneficiary Responsibilities and Rights (02172017) a-summary-of-california-trustee-and-beneficiary-responsibilities-and-rights-dave-tate-esq-02172017

david-tate-picture-large-cropped

 

 

Completed (mostly) a will contest and trust real property percentage trial on Friday – read more

I have been away from the blog for a while, preparing for a very contentious and time-consuming trial.

This past week I was in trial on a will contest action, and also on related but separate real property ownership and trust beneficiary percentage ownership claims. The witnesses and experts included my client who was the named beneficiary, the contestant(s), documents in which the decedent expressed her wishes including a police report and APS records in addition to other documents, forensic document examiners, forensic psychiatrists, and third party witnesses including a very spry 102 year old woman who was a friend of the decedent (the decedent executed the will at age 103, and passed away approximately 9 months later at age 104). Issues also involve the validity of a power of attorney that the decedent executed in June 2015 (she died one month later in July 2015), mental capacity, undue influence, elder abuse, trust and power of attorney accountings, costs and attorneys’ fees, and other issues.

As you may be aware, issues of mental capacity and undue influence are not the same for wills, powers of attorney, and trusts, variously including California Probate Code §§810, etc., and 6100.5, etc., and California Welfare and Institutions Code §15610.70, and various other statutes and case law.

The will contest was denied, and my client will receive what the decedent wished and intended.

So . . . I will be back on this blog and other networking, and also on my other blog http://auditcommitteeupdate.com.

Best to you, and thank you for following my blogs and posts. Dave Tate, San Francisco Bay Area and California.

 

Everyday is elder abuse prevention day – video cartoon – please pass it along

Here’s a different presentation approach – please do pass it along to your contacts and people who would be interested. This is an important topic that needs more discussion. Thank you. Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California)

Trustee and Beneficiary Responsibilities and Rights – Discussion Paper

If you are a trustee you need to know your responsibilities, and if you are a beneficiary you should know your rights. The following is a summary paper discussing both the responsibilities and the rights. Of course the California Probate Code is considerably longer and more detailed than the points discussed in this paper, there are also case law interpretations, and every case and situation is unique, but the paper will give you good insight. Click on the following link for the paper and discussion, A Summary of California Trustee and Beneficiary Responsibilities and Rights Dave Tate Esq 01052016.

Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco

What Is A California Conservatorship – An Overview

I was initially going to make this discussion as a video, and I still might; however, the video obviously takes more time. Below is the discussion about California conservatorships – specifically, what is a California conservatorship, an overview.

First – a reminder and an obligatory disclaimer – this discussion is only a summary of a complicated topic. You need to consult with an attorney about your situation. You cannot rely on this discussion for your situation. And this is not a solicitation for services inside or outside of California, I only represent clients in California, I don’t know anything about your situation or case, and you have not hired me for your situation or case.

Now, that having been said, the following is an overview discussion about California conservatorships.

A conservatorship is a court proceeding where the court legally appoints someone to make and manage personal, medical, daily living, residential placement, or financial matters and decisions for another person.

The person whose rights are being taken away or limited is called the conservatee. The person who is being appointed to manage matters and make decisions for the conservatee is called the conservator.

A conservatorship is a serious legal proceeding because the court, which is a state governmental entity, is being petitioned to take away or limit some of the prospective conservatee’s freedoms and personal and constitutional rights.

The conservatee has the right to fight or oppose the conservatorship, who might be appointed, and the powers of the conservator. And a prospective conservatee has the right to a jury trial.

You might ask, when is a conservatorship needed? Typically a conservatorship might be needed when a person can no longer make and manage the personal, medical or financial matters and decisions for herself or himself, and she or he hasn’t legally appointed someone else to handle those matters and decisions.

So, for example, a conservatorship might be needed if there are no, or insufficient, power of attorney and trust documents, and the person no longer has the mental capacity to execute those documents or refuses to do so.

On the other hand, a conservatorship should not be granted if there is a less restrictive way to provide the help or assistance that is needed, and if the court grants the petition for conservatorship, the court can order only the least restrictive terms, conditions and limitations that are necessary under the circumstances.

The person who is petitioning for conservatorship has the burden of producing sufficient admissible evidence to establish that the court should grant the conservatorship. Conservatorship proceedings can be very contentious.

If a conservatorship is granted, the case remains with the court for future review of the actions taken or not taken by the conservator, accountings if the conservatorship is of the estate, and whether the conservatorship is still needed.

Often a conservator is required to make very important and serious decisions. The conservatee and other people can oppose or object to what the conservator is going to do or has done. Sometimes the case will go back to court for the court to make decisions or orders.

The conservator needs to be represented by an attorney. The conservatee will be represented by an attorney if the conservatee requests one. And in conservatorship disputes it is common for other family members or friends to also be represented by legal counsel.

Recent California conservatorship court decisions have dealt with conservatee’s rights including the right to a jury trial, and in a very recent case the appellate court overruled the trial court, holding that the conservatorship should not have been granted because a friend had instead offered to provide the help and assistance that the prospective conservatee needed.

I have already explained that a prospective conservatee has the right to oppose the conservatorship, and to a jury trial.

You should also be aware that if the conservatorship is granted, the conservatee might also continue to disagree with decisions and actions that are being made or taken.

And I have also seen situations where the preexisting relationship between the conservatee and the conservator was forever damaged, and situations where the prospective conservatee, or the actual conservatee if the conservatorship was granted, then sought to disinherit the person who petitioned for conservatorship or who was appointed by the court to serving as the conservator.

There are many provisions in the California Probate Code that discuss conservatorship proceedings and duties and rights. There are too many provisions to cover in these materials. However, generally you can look at Probate Code sections 1400 through 3212. Other Probate Code sections are also applicable.

In addition to the conservatee’s rights, I also find particularly interesting and important the provisions that relate to conservator duties and decision making, including how the conservator should go about making decisions and what to consider, possibly including the wishes of the conservatee.

You can find additional information on my blogs at http://californiaestatetrust.com and http://auditcommitteeupdate.com, and you can call me at (415) 917-4030. That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California