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Forcing an Accounting


Our Litigation Attorneys Are Probate Law Specialists

Executors, trustees and other fiduciaries have duties to the beneficiaries. If they breach these fiduciary duties, then they will be liable to the beneficiaries. Whether the executor or trustee is a family member or hired to handle the estate or trust, beneficiaries depend on this individual to handle finances correctly. Accounting mistakes can cost beneficiaries some or all of the inheritance to which they are entitled.

Our California probate litigation lawyers represent beneficiaries, trustees and executors when beneficiaries request accountings in Oakland and throughout Northern California. If beneficiaries contest accountings by a fiduciary, then we can find out if the records are correct and resolve the situation accordingly. As a certified specialist in probate law, attorney Charles Triay understands how state and federal laws can affect your case. He has more than 30 years of experience in dealing with fiduciary accountings.

How do I Force an Executor or Trustee to do an Accounting?

Fiduciaries must provide accountings annually or at the request of a beneficiary. If you are a beneficiary, then you simply need to request this information in writing.

If an executor fails to provide the fiduciary accounting or if you believe the fiduciary breached his or her duties, then you may have the right to seek action against the fiduciary. To do this, you should document any potential breaches of fiduciary duties. Record any instances of mismanaging funds, and note any actions you feel are suspicious. Most importantly, speak to an attorney as soon as possible for advice about how to proceed. California has specific procedures for filing complaints against fiduciaries, and our probate litigation attorneys can tell you more about the process.

How Can an Executor or Trustee Avoid Contested Accountings?

If a beneficiary believes a fiduciary did not manage an estate or trust appropriately,  then that beneficiary may file a complaint. If you are a family member or non-professional acting as a trustee or executor, then the best way to avoid litigation is to seek out the assistance of a lawyer who has experience in probate and trust administration. Other methods to satisfy the concerns of beneficiaries include:

  • Remembering your fiduciary duties and abiding by them. Trustees and executors must work for the best interests of the beneficiaries, treat them equally and maintain accountings, among other requirements. By doing this, you can be prepared if a beneficiary asks for an accounting. You must also provide accountings once annually and upon beneficiary request.
  • Avoiding common mistakes committed by fiduciaries. Pay taxes and file returns promptly and make proper investment decisions. Always act with professionalism when performing your duties, even if you are a relative of the beneficiaries.
  • Communicating with beneficiaries. One of the most common complaints from beneficiaries is that they do not receive regular updates about the administration of the trust or estate. If you are an executor or trustee, then communicate with the beneficiaries regularly so they understand your actions and reasoning.

Where Can I Find a Probate Lawyer in Northern California to help with Fiduciary Accounting?

Managing an estate or trust can be challenging, but fiduciaries must perform these positions correctly or face scrutiny from beneficiaries. Whether you are an executor or trustee seeking advice on how to manage an estate or trust, or if you are a beneficiary seeking to ensure a fiduciary acts in your best interests, our California probate litigation lawyers can assist you. Please call Triay Law Office to get the information you need today.

FAQ Learn More About Probate Litigation

  • 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.