Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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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?
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.
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.
I asked the representative of the trustee for a copy of the trust, she refused, saying that the trustee was the only estate beneficiary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
"The trust document is considered private, so the trustee is within his/her rights - assuming that you aren't named in the trust."
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?
I am trying to find authority for you to get a copy of the trust; a few moments please.
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.
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.
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
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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