Beneficiary Protection In California Estate Matters

March 5, 2018 — by John Conger
Tags: Estate Planning Will Trust Beneficiary

Planning for how your estates will be handled upon your death is never easy. Estate administration tasks can be complicated, but with the assistance of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, you can rest easy knowing your wishes will be honored. The best way to make sure your intentions will not be disregarded is to reduce your plans to a writing. Even then though, a beneficiary may need to take action to protect their rights. Beneficiary protection is an important part of many estate and probate matters, and the attorneys at Shore McKinley & Conger in Stockton, CA, know how to help.

couple at table with estate planner

What is Beneficiary Protection?

Estate planning documents such as wills and trusts typically contain a provision whereby a beneficiary is designated. The beneficiary has rights against the trust, and possibly against the trustee administering the trust. In some instances, the trustee does not perform as directed in the will or trust, and this can be to the detriment of the beneficiary. The detrimental effect is usually in the form of a financial setback, and the beneficiary must take action to prevent that from taking place. Protecting the rights of a beneficiary requires keen legal insight and a working knowledge of estate and probate law. If you believe your rights as a beneficiary have been violated, you may take legal action to enforce the estate planning document as it was intended, for your benefit.

Rights of Beneficiaries

A beneficiary under a will or trust has certain rights regarding that document, and those rights include:      

  • Receipt of distributions of assets placed in trust. This could include property, bank account balances, investment funds, or any other item designated by the trust to flow to the benefit of the beneficiary.
  • The right to request and receive an accounting of trust assets, including all expenditures made and the nature of any expense incurred.
  • Impartial treatment from the trustee. The trustee acts as a fiduciary, which means the items in trust are placed under the control of the trustee for the benefit of the trust and any beneficiary. A trustee cannot have an interest in any of the trust assets and this rule is in place to foster an environment of impartiality.

 A beneficiary who has not been afforded the rights outlined above or has had their rights a beneficiary ignored in some other fashion has the right to seek recourse from the Courts. One possible remedy is to have the trustee removed and replaced with another impartial individual. Another remedy might include the requirement that the trustee repay any misappropriated funds to the trust or beneficiary.

Why Beneficiaries Need Legal Assistance

At the outset it might seem like family members will get along with a loved one passes. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and it is critical to have a qualified estate attorney on your side to protect your interests. Even in amicable cases, it is a good idea to have a seasoned estate planning lawyer involved in the drafting and interpretation of all estate documents. Allowing a legal professional to assist with your estate planning needs removes the burden from your shoulders, and allows you to look at the issues without emotion.

Who to Call for Help with a Beneficiary Protection Needs

If you have questions about your rights as a beneficiary, the attorneys at Shore McKinley & Conger can help. We have experience helping families plan for the future with a proper estate plan and can help you too. Contact us online or call our office at (209) 477-8171.