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San Fernando Valley Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Determining when a trustee may be liable for a breach of trust

When a settlor entrusts a trustee to manage assets for the benefit of designated beneficiaries in Woodland Hills, that person is placing a great deal of faith in the trustee’s abilities to accomplish his or her aims. Oftentimes, the person or party chosen as the trustee may not be up to the task. The question then becomes whether or not his or her shortcomings constitute a breach of trust.

The Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University Law School defines a breach of trust as being any trustee action that violate the terms of a trust. It goes on to say that such actions do not always have to be intentional; one’s negligence or carelessness may also constitute a violation of his or her duties.

What is a trustee’s standard of care?

When you are party to a trust in Woodland Hills, you no doubt have interest in the actions of the trustee. His or her performance in this role could directly affect your interest in the trust’s assets. Therefore, it may be in your best interest to know the basic standards that he or she is required by law to abide by if the question of a potential breach of his or her fiduciary duty were to ever come up.

A trustee’s basic standard of care is detailed in the California Probate Code. It states that the trustee must perform his or her administrative duties with the same care and skill as would be expected from a prudent person performing in a similar capacity. Additionally, all of his or her actions should be executed with same purpose in mind: accomplishing the purposes and goals of the trust.

Dispute arises over estate decisions made by late woman’s sisters

Few in Woodland Hills may want to have to consider the potential for their deaths at a young age. They may maintain the belief that there will be plenty of time to address such issues when they are older. However, such a line of thinking may prove to be flawed given that no one has any control over the circumstances of his or her death. Should someone without having properly addressed the affairs of his or her estate die, his or her family members or friends may petition the court to be granted special authority over certain aspects of it. That authority, however, is typically limited, both in its scope and its duration.

Such was the case following the death of a woman in 2010 who operated a restaurant in California. Her sisters were named special administrators to her estate following her death and granted authority to continue the restaurant’s operations, which they did for a short time. Action was later brought against them by the property’s owner in 2011 for unpaid rent, which the sister’s agreed to resolve. However, after another administrator was subsequently appointed to oversee the estate, he filed a petition stating that sisters did not have the authority to link the estate to the terms of their earlier settlement. The issue has since been resolved between the administrator and the landlord.

Wills and trusts: Which is right for you?

An estate plan is essential for every individual, regardless of his or her income or financial standing. If you have not taken this important step, you are risking the appropriate administration of your estate, and your loved ones may not receive their intended share of money and assets.

Estate planning differs on a case-by-case basis. You need a plan that is uniquely suited for your needs, wishes and the value and size of your California estate. A will is the most basic component of any estate plan, but you may also benefit from the establishment of a trust. There are distinct differences between the two, and understanding them can help you make the best decision for you and your loved ones.

Late singer’s manager sued for violating non-disclosure agreement

One of the main reasons why residents of Woodland Hills are encouraged to see to their estate planning before it is too late is because if they want to keep their families’ secrets private, proper planning allows them to do so. Avoiding probate may also mean avoiding having the information related to an estate becoming public record. Even further, provisions such as non-disclosure agreements may secure a family’s privacy by compelling parties to an estate to not divulge information about it. If those parties violate those agreements, the estate may then choose to pursue legal action.

Such action was recently sought by the estate of a late Hispanic singer in order to secure injunctive relief from one of the woman’s former associates. The defendant, who served as the singer’s manager, is alleged to have written a book about the woman that revealed secrets that estate representatives claim he agreed not to share by signing a non-disclosure agreement shortly after her death. That book will serve as the basis from an upcoming television special to be aired by Univision. While a California judge recently issued a temporary restraining order along with a preliminary injunction against the defendant, the series will still air as planned.

Heir suing to stop upcoming Broadway production

Many in Woodland Hills may believe that the process of handling one’s estate is a relatively short-term task involving the simple transfer of assets and/or property to designated beneficiaries. While it may be that simple in some cases, others may involve a much more long-term commitment on the part of the parties involved to ensure that an estate’s property is not infringed upon in the future. Whenever copyrighted works or intellectual property are linked an estate, any use of such materials may need to first be given the approval of those with an interest in it. Such parties may even end up having to fight to ensure that their rights of ownership of such properties are respected.

Such a legal battle may be on the horizon after a lawsuit was filed by the heir to a late playwright to block an upcoming Broadway production. The play in question is a stage adaption of the late 1990’s animated musical “Anastasia.” The basic premise of that film was derived from an earlier movie whose producers had secured the rights to use the playwright’s story as the basis of their project. However, those rights were limited to the film production only. Subsequent uses of the story by the production studio for live adaptations have since been challenged by the playwright’s estate. One major difference in this most recent case, however, is that along with contesting the use of the story, the estate also alleges that the creator of pending production actually copied significant portions of the play itself.

Examining the potential of naming co-trustees

One of the main reason that we here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo hear from Woodland Hills residents as to why they put off estate planning is because they fear upsetting family members who may be given roles in their estates. Having several options to choose from when selecting a trustee may place you in somewhat of a predicament. Each of your potential trustees may bring certain assets to the role, while also possessing weaknesses that could inhibit their ability to fulfill the responsibilities that come with it. If you are facing this conundrum, an alternate option you may want to explore would be to name co-trustees.

California law allows you to actually name as many trustees as you like. Each would have whatever powers and authorities you choose to grant to them through your trust’s instrument. If no specific responsibilities are designated, then the law recognizes each as having equal authority. You should be warned, however, that the potential for discord may still exist given that having equal authority may allow one of your co-trustees to veto the actions of the other. Indeed, the California Probate Code does state that unanimous action is needed before any powers shared between multiple trustees may be exercised.

Daughter alleges late father’s friend led him to change his will

Not only is estate planning a process that Woodland Hills residents should begin early on in their adult lives, but also one in which they may want to involve their families and other interested parties in. The reason for this is that as one’s circumstances change throughout his or her life, he or she may feel compelled to update his or her estate planning documents to reflect the current situation. If all those who are party to the estate are not involved in this process, they may cry foul once the testator is gone and his or her current will is brought to light.

It is a Massachusetts man’s supposed decision to change his will that has prompted a dispute between his friend and his daughter. The daughter claims that her father’s actual wishes are expressed in the will he created in the early 1980s, in which he left the bulk of his estate to her, as well as her mother and brother. However, a new will drafted a few months before he died names his partner as the intended recipient of the majority of his property and assets, which are reported to be in excess of $1.2 million. Upon the death of the partner, the will stipulates that they should then go to the friend in question.

Dying without an estate plan could affect surviving family

When thinking about your eventual demise, you may wonder how your family will handle your death and the multitude of questions needing decisions in the aftermath. These decisions could prove difficult for surviving loved ones as they may second-guess whether you would have liked the decisions. This situation could put significant stress on your family during a time of grief, and complications could potentially arise if you did not create an estate plan.

Siblings battle over change to deceased father’s estate plan

Among the primary reasons as to why Woodland Hills residents are encouraged to begin the process of estate planning early on in their lives is to avoid the potential for future disputes arising amongst their beneficiaries. However, having one’s wishes stipulated in estate planning documents may not provide an iron-clad guarantee that disagreements will not occur. One may be surprised to see how bitter estate disputes can become, and how quickly the beneficiaries involved can expand their alleged grievances to target other parties.

An example of this is currently playing out in a case that originally involved a dispute between the children of a former Illinois real estate developer. Several of the siblings brought action against a few of the others, alleging that they had convinced their mother to undo the estate plan of their father to leave large portions of his assets primarily to one of his sons. Under the amended plan, the assets were distributed equally.