Can a living trust in California have co-trustees with equal oversight? Also, must Living Wills be updated periodically?

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.

Garden Grove, CA -

Attorney Answers (3)

Robert Paul Bergman

Robert Paul Bergman

Trusts Attorney - San Jose, CA

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.

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Daniel Mcgraw Little

Daniel Mcgraw Little

Estate Planning Attorney - Chula Vista, CA

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.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Trusts Attorney - Livonia, MI

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.

James Frederick

I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice... more

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