Trustees and those entrusted to act as successor trustees should note that the probate court has the authority to compel a formal, verified accounting as a preliminary step in any court dispute which arises regarding the trust and its assets, and such order is not appealable. This was the issue tackled on Christie v. Kimball (202 Cal.App.4th 1407).
In Christie v. Kimball, Danita Christie and Paulette Kimball were successor trustees to the Schwarz Family Trust that was created in 1991. This trust was later amended in 2005 by the surviving trustee and testator, Mary Schwarz, to provide that Christie would be the sole beneficiary of all the trust property. However, Mary also stated in the amended trust that she wanted half of the property in the trust to be held in trust for Paulette Kimball.
After Schwarz death, Kimball filed a petition to remove Christie as the trustee of the family trust and to compel an accounting. Kimball further alleged that Christie is in violation of her duties as trustee. The court sought to identify the assets that were part of the trust. In a brief unsworn statement, Christie told the court that she had distributed the assets to herself as beneficiary, had used trust funds to pay attorney's fees, and that approximately $130,000 of trust funds were basically gone. As the probate court lacked sufficient information to rule on three consolidated cases involving the trust, it determined that an accounting would help it identify the assets that were part of the trust. The court therefore ordered Christie to file an accounting. Christie appealed.
Tune in for more on this topic on subsequent blog.
*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.