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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Friday, February 12, 2021

Statutes of Limitations in Your Trust Lawsuit

If you wish to file a lawsuit regarding your inheritance under a will or trust, California requires that you follow specific deadlines known as “statutes of limitation.” These are laws that set a time limit on the time by which you must bring a specific type of legal action or else you automatically forfeit the right to do so.

One of the more difficult aspects of these statutes is that there can be a lot of them and it’s important to identify which ones relate to your specific claim as well as the type of document in question (i.e. will or trust). Those who are not very familiar with probate law may have a difficult time finding the right statutes in the California Probate Code. However, here are two of the most common claims pertaining to trusts and wills and their statutes.

You Wish to Challenge the Validity of a Trust

If you do not believe that the trust in question is valid for whatever legal reason, you will want to contest it. This means that you must file your claim within 120 days from the date by which the Trustee mailed the required Statutory Notification by Trustee. This notification must include specific elements:

  • Trustee’s name;
  • Trustee’s contact information; and
  • A statement regarding the 120-day limitation.

The Trustee is also required to send copies of the trust and any restatements or amendments to all heirs and beneficiaries. The 120-day clock does not start until you receive the notification. However, you must still file your claim within a time frame that is considered reasonable.

You Wish to Challenge the Validity of a Will

Those who wish to challenge the validity of a Will must file their claim either before the Will goes to probate or within 120 days of the Will going to probate. Once again, the 120-day period you have to challenge a Will’s validity does not begin until it is admitted to probate. On the flip side, however, assets are usually unable to be distributed to an heir before they have been admitted to probate court.

You Wish to File a Claim Against the Trustee

Unfortunately, sometimes Trustees fail to uphold their duties. There are a variety of ways in which they may do so:

  • The Trustee has misappropriated the Trust assets;
  • The Trustee has mismanaged the Trust assets;
  • The Trustee is refusing to distribute the assets;
  • The Trustee refuses to follow the terms of the Trust;
  • The Trustee has demonstrated favoritism or unfair treatment of beneficiaries;
  • The Trustee has stolen from the Trust; or
  • The Trustee has been self-dealing.

Under California law you have three years from the date you first knew or should have known that you a claim for any of the above. However, some Trusts contain language that allows the Trustee to limit this time frame to just 180 days from the date that an accounting is mailed to you so long as the Trustee provides written notice of the changed time frame according to the probate code.

There are also numerous deadlines during the actual litigation process. Once again these deadlines in the California Code of Civil Procedure can be difficult to understand and subsequently it can be difficult to comply with them.

Biddle Law Can Help

If you don’t comply with all deadlines you may end up forfeiting your right to bring your claim. This is why it’s so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced California estate planning attorney who has experience interpreting the statutes contained in the Codes. If you wish to bring a claim against a trust or will or against a trustee, it’s important that you do so correctly so as to maintain that right.

At Biddle Law, we are here to answer all of your questions and walk you through the legal process. We care about your future and want to assist in protecting your interests. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!


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