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Too often, beneficiaries do not receive adequate communication about their inheritance. Beneficiaries have rights and they need not sit by idly and wait until the trust/estate representative voluntarily provides material information. On the other side of the coin, trustees and executors have obligations they must fulfill, while acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

What if a deceased loved one made provisions for you to inherit, and yet after a reasonable period of time you have received no significant correspondence, documents, information or distributions? This is way more common than it should be.

The rights of the inheritor (beneficiary) and the obligations of the estate representative depend upon whether the decedent had a Living Trust or just a Will (or neither). In any event, estate representatives are legally obliged to provide meaningful, timely information to beneficiaries and heirs of the decedent.

If the person from whom you were to inherit had no Living Trust and owned more than $150,000 of assets in his or her name (other than joint accounts or those governed by beneficiary designation), the assets will be subject to Probate – a court-supervised estate administration proceeding.

The Probate proceeding is typically initiated by someone like me – a Trust/Estate attorney. Such attorney is hired by the Executor who is nominated in the decedent’s Will (or if there’s no Will, then usually by a close relative who petitions to be appointed Administrator; the equivalent of an Executor). I then prepare and file with the Probate Court a Petition for Probate and extensive related paperwork and advise the Executor during the many months while the Probate is pending. The process is overseen by the Judge, whose primary purpose is to protect the estate’s beneficiaries.

Pursuant to many laws, local rules and oversight by the Judge, beneficiaries are generally well protected during the Probate process. Thus, this article focuses more on situations in which the decedent planned well by establishing and fully funding a Revocable Living Trust. In such cases, Probate is avoided and the administration of the Trust is handled privately, without court intervention or oversight by a Judge. The successor trustee nominated in the Trust document handles the administration. So, what obligations do trustees have and what rights do Trust beneficiaries have?

PART TWO: More advice from Rob in Don’t Be Left in the Dark – Part Two.

This article is intended to provide information of a general nature, and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, financial and/or business advice. Readers should obtain and rely upon specific advice only from their own qualified professional advisors. This communication is not intended or written to be used, for the purpose of: i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code; or ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.

Mr. Silverman is an attorney with R. Silverman Law Group, 1855 Olympic Blvd., Suite 125, Walnut Creek, CA 94596; (925) 705-4474;

ESTATE LEGAL SERVICES: Need to find an estate planning attorney in Walnut Creek CA? Contact Robert Silverman at 925-705-4474 for legal advice on Revocable Living Trust, Wills, Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directive, Special Needs Trusts, and Irrevocable Trusts & Advanced Estate Planning, including Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT), Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT), Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT), “Crummey Trust”, and various types of Charitable Trusts.


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