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Estate administrators, executors and trustees act in a fiduciary capacity. Therefore, they have a duty to provide beneficiaries with the information necessary to ensure proper management and distribution of the estate or trust. To comply with that duty, these estate administrators must provide beneficiaries with statements of financial transactions. This is called an accounting. Our Bay Area probate litigation attorneys frequently represent executors and trustees in these matters. We have over 30 years of experience in dealing with fiduciary accountings. If beneficiaries receive an accounting evidencing a breach of fiduciary duty, or if they fail to receive an accounting, then they may have an actionable claim against the executor or trustee in probate court.


When a person dies with a probate estate, the estate administrator or executor must file a fiduciary accounting. This closes the estate after paying debts and taxes and resolves creditors’ claims. But, it happens before distributing money or assets to beneficiaries. The accounting must be filed in accordance with the guidelines provided in the California Probate Code and must include all relevant financial information about the estate.

When the beneficiary receives the final probate accounting, if it is inadequate, incorrect or incomplete, the beneficiary may have an actionable claim in probate court against the administrator, executor or trustee. Fiduciaries may be liable to beneficiaries for monetary damages suffered for breaches of fiduciary duties.


Trust beneficiaries can receive annual trust accountings from the trustee. These show statements of assets, income and distributions from the trust. The California Probate Code details exactly what trust accountings must contain, which include very detailed schedules and documentation. If the trustee fails to produce a proper accounting, then the probate court may compel the trustee to do so upon motion by the beneficiary.

A beneficiary may have an action for breach of fiduciary duty by the trustee in the situations below. However, this list is not exhaustive:

  • Trustee fails to provide an accounting annually or after 60 days upon demand

  • The accounting is incomplete or inaccurate

  • The trust property is being mismanaged or not prudently invested

  • Trustee is not following the terms of the trust


If an accounting evidences a breach of fiduciary duty or if an executor or trustee fails to file a required accounting, then beneficiaries must file claims within the probate court to protect their rights. Charles Triay, the founder of Triay Law Office, has been practicing contested probate litigation for over 30 years. He has provided unsurpassed representation in contested accounting cases throughout Northern California.

Unlike other law firms, the Triay Law Office gives clients the option to pay attorney fees on an hourly or contingency basis. 

Please contact our Bay Area probate litigation lawyers if you are a beneficiary who needs to file a claim against an estate or trust, or if you are a fiduciary who must defend an accounting in probate court.

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  • Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s last will and testament or according to intestate law. Certain trusts only go into effect upon the death of the testator, and may therefore be part of a probate administration. California probate courts oversee probate administration and probate litigation.

  • Probate litigation is the term for a lawsuit when a party, such as an heir, beneficiary, creditor, third party or omitted spouse contests a will. Probate litigation also includes charges against fiduciaries of trusts or estates, or creditors’ claims against an estate.

  • There are several different reasons for contesting a will. For example, claims of undue influence and lack of capacity are common causes for probate litigation. Some individuals may argue that the will is defective, or that the estate trustee is breaching a fiduciary duty. If you are an omitted spouse or if your spouse leaves you less than required by California law, you may have a claim against the estate as part of your spousal rights.

  • A fiduciary duty is the obligation to act honestly, fairly and in good faith when handling the deceased person’s estate. There are multiple fiduciary duties that executors, administrators and trustees are legally required to follow, including keeping proper accountings of all investments, as well as money going in and out of the trust or estate. Violation of this duty or poor performance in administrating the estate may result in legal action by the estate’s beneficiaries.

  • Just as in all types of civil litigation, the law allows you to represent yourself in a probate proceeding. However, we strongly advise having a seasoned probate litigation lawyer handle your case to ensure that California probate law upholds your best interests.​

  • Even in death, a person is liable for their debts. For example, creditors may bring claims against a person’s estate after their death to receive payment.

  • A codicil is a document that makes small changes to the terms of a last will and testament. An individual may use codicils when they want to amend their last wishes without having to create an entirely new will. A codicil will only be legally valid and enforceable if executed in the same manner as a will. Codicils are particularly useful upon remarriage, additional children born, or new property acquired by an estate.​

  • If a person dies without a will, then California intestacy laws will dictate the division of their estates to the heirs at law. These laws will then distribute property and assets depending on the marital status, number of children and surviving relatives of the deceased individual.

About Triay Law Office

Probate litigation attorney Charles Triay has specialized in California probate litigation matters for over 30 years.

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4 Orinda Way Suite 200-Dorinda, CA 94563


4 Orinda Way Suite 200-D

Orinda, CA 94563


4 Orinda Way Suite 200-D

Orinda, CA 94563

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