Trusts & Estates Law/Probate


I posted this question before but I neglected to indicate what state all of the parties lives in.  Everyone lives in California and the decedent lived in California as well.  My daughter's father died in August in California.  He left a living trust leaving his elder daughter as Trustee.  She lives in California.  However, he named my daughter as Successor Trustee.  She also lives in California.  The trustee does not share any information about the estate.  Can my daughter, as Successor Trustee, challenge her or at least get an accounting of the estate? And where would I find legal codes surrounding what a successor can and cannot do?

Thank you for clarifying that this is a California matter.  Yes, California law has specific requirements for a trustee.  California probate code sections 15000 to 19403 deal with trusts and trustees.  Here is a good place to find them:

The trustee has a duty to keep beneficiaries "reasonably informed" about the trust and its administration. (16060).  The trustee is supposed to provide an "accounting" to the beneficiaries when s/he takes over as trustee and then at least once a year. (16062).

If the trustee fails to administer the trust, a beneficiary can file a "Petition to Compel an Accounting" and/or a "Petition to Remove Trustee".  Sections 16420 and 15642 lists the reasons for removing a trustee.

Bear in mind that California law also provides that the current trustee is entitled to have the trust pay for his/her attorney fees in defending himself.  The person challenging the trustee must pay his/her own attorney fees UNLESS s/he proves that the trustee acted unreasonably.

Trust litigation can get expensive very quickly.  Although most non-lawyers think that they can simply "tell it to the judge", that's not how things work.  As I tell people all the time, "this isn't Judge Judy."  It usually takes at least 3 or 4 court appearances to get to what most people would think are the "pre-preliminary" rounds.  At a couple of thousand dollars per court appearance, that adds up fast.

However, it's also possible that a strongly worded letter from a lawyer might send the current trustee to a knowledgeable trust attorney who will help guide her in how to administer the trust (or she could just dig in her heels .... ).

Hope that helps.

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Janet Brewer


BE CAREFUL about taking legal advice from non-lawyers.

I am a licensed attorney in California. I am available to answer questions about probating estates, preparing wills and trusts, administering estates and trusts, forming family limited partnerships and limited liability companies, and establishing a wide variety of estate and gift tax-sensitive trusts (charitable trusts, children's trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, etc.).

I can also answer questions regarding the preparation of estate tax returns (Form 706) in taxable estates. Please note that I do not prepare trust income tax returns and cannot provide you with any information about that type of return.

Please note: I am only able to practice law in the State of California. I cannot answer specific questions about other states' laws; I can only provide some "general" information that may or may not apply to your situation.


I have practiced California estate, gift-planning, and probate law exclusively since 1991. I am certified as a specialist in estate planning and probate law by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization (there are less than 125 such specialists practicing in Santa Clara County and fewer than 7,000 practicing in California - out of over 170,000 lawyers statewide).

I have served as an Instructor in the CFP (certificate in financial planning) program at University of California Santa Cruz, teaching the estate planning segment.

Silicon Valley Bar Association
Wealth Counsel
Wealth Advisors' Forum
Executive Committee Member, Solo and Small Firm Section of the California State Bar (appointed to a 3 year term by the California State Bar Board of Governors)

I received my law degree (J.D.) from University of Denver Law School in 1975. I was admitted to the Colorado Bar in 1975 and to the California Bar in 1977 (NOTE: although I am a member of the Colorado Bar, I am on INACTIVE status there). I earned an M.B.A. in 1982, and I earned a Masters Degree in Taxation Law (LLM) at Golden Gate University Law School in 2010 (with honors).

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2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, & 2012 - chosen as a "SuperLawyer" - one of the top 5% of Northern California lawyers practicing in the estate planning and probate area ( Avvo Rating of 10.0/10.0

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