Albertson & Davidson, LLP Obtains Court Order Requiring California Trustee to Provide Pre-Death Accounting

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Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael I. Levanas ordered a California trustee to provide a pre-death accounting for the trustee's acts that occurred during the trust creator's lifetime.

Keith Davidson and Stewart Albertson

But California law supports our argument that a trustee is required to account to trust beneficiaries for transfers that occurred during the lifetime of the trust creator...

On Thursday Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael I. Levanas ordered a trustee to provide a formal accounting for his acts as trustee that occurred during the last five years of the trust creator’s life.

The case—In the Matter of Mary L. Herbert 1999 Restate of Trust, case number BP137511—was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by one of the trust’s beneficiaries last fall by Albertson & Davidson, LLP. Prior to filing the case the trust beneficiary requested an accounting from the trustee, who refused to provide it.

At the hearing, attorney Byron K. Husted of Albertson & Davidson, LLP argued that under California law the trustee was required to account for the trust administration that took place during the trust creator’s lifetime. The trustee’s attorney argued that the trustee should only be required to account for the time after the trust creator died.

“This is a tough case because the California Probate Code states that beneficiaries don’t have a right to a trust accounting during the trust creator’s lifetime. And here we are asking the court to order an accounting to a beneficiary for a time when the beneficiary was not a vested beneficiary as defined by the Probate Code,” said Husted.

“But California law supports our argument that a trustee is required to account to trust beneficiaries for transfers that occurred during the lifetime of the trust creator, once the beneficiaries become vested. The cases we relied on this morning were Evangelho v. Presoto (1998) 67 Cal.App4th 615 and Estate of Giraldin (2012) 55 Cal.4th 1058. Giraldin is important because it’s a recent California Supreme Court Case that confirms Evangelho. And Evangelho holds that once conditional beneficiaries become vested in the trust assets, these beneficiaries rights mature into present and enforceable rights—including the right to a pre-death accounting,” said Husted.

“These are important cases because elder abuse occurs in the years leading up to a trust creator’s death. In most cases contingent beneficiaries don’t have the right to challenge the trustee’s acts while the trust creator is alive. But once the trust creator dies, we’re in a position to force the trustee to account for his or her acts during that timeframe. This will help in cases where financial elder abuse occurs,” concluded Husted.

Byron K. Husted is an attorney at the law firm of Albertson & Davidson, LLP in Ontario, California. He represents beneficiaries in Trust, Will, and Probate litigation. He can be reached at byron(at)aldavlaw(dot)com.

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