Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
Thank you in advance for your time. This question comes from California. We have reason to believe the trustee of our late father's estate as mishandled the funds, and she is ignoring our request to provide a trust accounting which is required by law. We hired an attorney to help us in the matter and he has filed a lawsuit. Her attorney demurred on the grounds of statute of limitations (it's been 5 years) but the demurrer was denied by the judge. We thought this meant that she would have to provide an accounting now, but our attorney has advised us that this is merely the beginning of the process, and we need to hire our own forensic accountant to investigate the estate finances as our case moves into the discovery period -- at considerable cost to us ($30,000). His position is that we must have some ammunition for the case when her side presents the accounting, otherwise we won't be able to argue if we disagree with it. I understand he is trying to win this civil suit he has had us file against her but we aren't even sure if we want to sue her for wrongdoing until we see the trust accounting she produces. 1) Isn't there a cheaper alternative to force her to provide the accounting which she is required to provide by CA law? Our attorney is only offering us this one $30,000 solution. Response 1: Your Attorney should start with Discovery Request asking her to produce documents regarding the estate. The Attorney should also send her Interrogatories and Request for Admissions. However, the Request for Production of Documents is the most important. If she refuses to comply with the Discovery Request, then your Attorney should file a Motion to Compel her response and for sanctions. If she produces most of the documents that you are asking for, then the lawsuit can be withdrawn at that time thereby saving you quite a bit of money. 2) Assuming there is a cheaper way to get this accounting, if we disagreed with it couldn't we then decide to pursue the matter in court? It just feels like we're coming from this a little backward Response 2: You need to conduct Discovery Requests. Since she has been uncooperative for quite a long time, I do not see any way around filing a lawsuit to force her to produce the documents. However, at this time hiring a "forensic accountant" is premature. Your Attorney should use the Discovery Requests to get the information that you looking for.
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