My elderly relative in Calif. has selected a friend to act as Trustee of her Living Trust. By doing so, she removed a family member from that responsibility and made him successor trustee which, of course, gives him no oversight unless the Trustee is removed for whatever reason. To the family, this is a questionable move on my relative's part and has caused concern of undue influence by the "friend". To make matters worse, my relative refuses to provide a copy of the recently amended Trust to the family, including the person who is successor trustee. Her excuse is that all family members live outside of Calif. and she has made this move to have a local person as Trustee. Obviously, at the very least, the family would like to convince her to have a family member as co-trustee.
Wills and Living Wills Lawyer
A person can nominate multiple individuals as Trustees, however, this may create conflicts in the administration of the Trust.
The Probate Code is very clear that family members are not entitled to a copy of a persons Trust until after it becomes irrevocable. The information in the Trust is confidential.
An individual does not have to live within California to serve as a Trustee.
If there is legitimate grounds for your suspicions of undue influence you should take action immediately and contact Adult Protective Services and an attorney.
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Answering your questions: A living trust in California can have co-trustees with equal oversight. You can also have trustees that have different powers and different rights.
Living Wills or "directives to physicians" (now replaced by the advance health care directive) should be updated periodically if the intentions of the person change over time. If you do not have different wishes, you do need to update anything.
There is no requirement that someone provide a copy of their existing or amended living trust to anyone prior to it being needed. You are right that there is no oversight by a successor trustee unless the elderly relative permits or requires it. Unless you have some evidence that the friend named as trustee is acting contrary to the wishes of the relative, or financially abusing the relative, the most you can do is try to convince your relative to have the family member serve as a co-trustee.
Please remember to mark what you believe to be the best answer to your question. This answer is provided by estate planning attorney Robert P. Bergman, with offices in San Jose, California. Mr. Bergman is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law (State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization), and has been practicing since 1980. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship, and is only intended to provide general legal advice within the limits of the question asked. If you wish to create an attorney-client relationship for specific legal advice, it will be necessary to enter into an engagement for legal services. More general legal information about wills, living trusts, and estate planning can be found at Mr. Bergman's main website at www.lawbob.com, or his information website at www.lawbob.net. Mr. Bergman also offers free living trust seminars and wealth preservation seminars at his offices in San Jose. For those unable to attend a live seminar, an online living trust seminar may be viewed or downloaded at www.freelivingtrustseminar.com.
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I agree with the other response. There is generally no problem in having co-trustees. It sounds like the family is REALLY involved in this matter, much more often than is usually the case. If the relative is refusing this and is directing what is happening, then I question whether undue influence is occurring. Just because the family does not like it does not mean the grantor cannot name whoever she chooses and leave her estate any way she likes. If I was the relative, I would really resent the family's imposing its opinion and criticizing my choices for my estate plan.
If you really believe that she is being taken advantage of, then you owe it to her to contact protective services and have them investigate the situation. If they find that she is incapacitated and someone is taking advantage, they would be able to step in. Of course, if she is not incapacitated, your doing this may further polarize the relationship with her.
I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.
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