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LegalGems
LegalGems, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 7629
Experience:  Private Practice; Elder Law Attorney; Estate Planning; Attorney Mentor
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I received a check as part of the division of an estate by

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I received a check as part of the division of an estate by the trustee, I currently am being told that I am not a beneficiary of that estate, and I would like to see a copy of the trust and am looking to obtain a copy by retaining an attorney, would depositing that check, even if I expected a different amount, affect my efforts to view the trust? Does it anyway state that I accept only that amount depending on what the trust shows?

LegalGems :

Hi; My goal is to provide you with great service - if you have any questions during our chat, please ask! I'll do my best to ensure your satisfaction!

LegalGems :

Remember, I can only provide general legal information, as this is a public forum, so no attorney client relationship is established.

LegalGems :

I am sorry to hear of your loss. On what basis did the trustee issue you the check, if s/he is now asserting you are in fact not a beneficiary? Also, are you a blood relative of the decedent?

LegalGems :

Depositing the check would not affect your ability to view the trust. In fact, any beneficiaries or any people that would take via intestate succession (i.e. next of kin; blood relatives, spouse,) is entitled to a copy of the trust - and an accounting.

Customer:

The trustee issued the check on the basis of being a gift. The deceased was a close family friend who passed away last year, prior to her death, she had indicated that I was a beneficiary and spoke in great detail about other beneficiaries. After her death, we received a phone call from a representative of the trustee, and then nothing for almost six months. I wrote a letter inquiring into the state of matters and received a check, significantly less than what the friend has told me it would be.

Customer:

I asked the representative of the trustee for a copy of the trust, she refused, saying that the trustee was the only estate beneficiary.

LegalGems :

The fact that the trustee issued a check would indicate that something in the trust directed such a distribution. You can petition the court for a copy of the trust document. However, first you may want to have an attorney write a letter detailing the situation, and demanding that the trustee produce the trust.

Customer:

So now I am in the process of obtaining legal counsel, simply to have someone help me obtain a copy of the trust, to view for myself. I'd like to utilize some of the funds from the initial check to cover my legal expenses, that is why I was asking.

Customer:

I don't want to cause problems for myself if depositing the check gets held against me, but it seems by your comments that it would not.

LegalGems :

If the trust document later reveals that you were not entitled to the check, then you would have to reimburse the estate the money. It is just very unusual for a trustee to issue a check, then later assert that the recipient was not the beneficiary. Ideally, the money should be deposited in escrow while the dispute is being resolved.

Customer:

Okay, just to clarify, the trustee isn't trying to take the money back or state that it was intended for someone else, they've essentially said in a letter that we not a beneficiary of the trust, the money was simply sent on the basis of goodwill by the deceased, that because I had known her for a long time, she intended that I receive that money, not that it was actually written into the trust. Does that change anything?

LegalGems :

Oh; I see. So the trustee is not asserting a claim to the money. Generally, the only people entitled to see a trust are those mentioned in the trust, or the legal heirs. The trust document is considered private, so the trustee is within his/her rights - assuming that you aren't named in the trust.

Customer:

"The trust document is considered private, so the trustee is within his/her rights - assuming that you aren't named in the trust."

Customer:

Yes, I understand this, and this is why I'm asserting that I believe I do have a right to see the trust, that I think the representative of the trustee has been....underhanded in her dealings, all I want to know is that by depositing the check that they sent me, if I do get to view the trust and it ends up stating a higher amount than I received, will having deposited the original check affect my case in the eyes of the court?

LegalGems :

I am trying to find authority for you to get a copy of the trust; a few moments please.

LegalGems :

No, depositing the check won't have any affect on that, unless you sign a document saying you are accepting that amount in lieu of whatever you would otherwise have been entitled to.

Customer:

Yes, there was no document to sign included with the check, which was also kind of curious since I thought that you had to sign for anything you receive as a beneficiary or otherwise. In anycase, I appreciate your help, you've answered my question, thank you.

LegalGems :

You are welcome. Here is the Probate code as to who is entitled to a copy of the trust: http://law.onecle.com/california/probate/16061.7.html

LegalGems :

It is limited to heirs or named beneficiaries. So the burden would be on you to prove that you were listed in the trust. It's sort of a catch 22. You would need to convince a judge that you believe you are listed as a beneficiary.

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