If you are a Trustee beneficiary who is having problems with your Trustee, you need to file for help in the probate court. To file, you bring a petition under section 17200, which gives the court the power to issue orders regarding the internal affairs of the Trust. Section 17200 provides a long list of actions that the court can take to help you fix problems with a bad Trustee.
For example, under Section 17200(b) the court is given the power to:
- interpret the language of a Trust (17200(b)(1)),
- determine whether a right or power is granted under the Trust (17200(b)(2)),
- determine the validity of a Trust provision (17200(b)(3)),
- determine who the beneficiaries of a Trust are and order distribution of the Trust assets if the Trust does not specify beneficiaries (17200(b)(4)),
- rule on Trust accountings, and approve or disapprove of the actions of the Trustee (17200(b)(5)),
- Issuing instructions to the Trustee to act, or not act, in a given situation (17200(b)(6)),
- Order the Trustee to provide a copy of the Trust to beneficiaries and heirs, to provide information about the Trust, and to provide a Trust accounting (17200(b)(7)),
- Grant powers to the Trustee to take actions that the Trust does not otherwise authorize (such as selling real property, for example) (17200(b)(8)),
- Setting the Trustees compensation, and reviewing the reasonableness of that compensation (17200(b)(9)),
- Appointing new Trustees, and removing existing Trustees (17200(b)(10)),
- Accepting the resignation of a Trustee who wants to resign voluntarily (17200(b)(11)),
- Ordering the Trustee to pay damages to the Trust, or repairing any harm to the Trust by the means allowed under the Probate Code (17200(b)(12)),
- Approving the modification or termination of the Trust (17200(b)(13)), and
- Approving the combination or division of the Trust (17200(b)(14)).
This is the first fourteen subparts under Section 17200(b), and the most often used sections. There are 23 in total, you can read them all here.
As you can see, Section 17200 provides for nearly every action a court may need to take to correct problems with your Trust. By filing a petition under section 17200, you open the door to the probate court and can obtain an order that hopefully corrects your Trust problem.
For instance, if you have a Trustee who refuses to distribute Trust assets to you, even though the Trust terms require the distribution, you can use subsection (6), of section 17200(b) to seek an order for instructions. The order would instruct the Trustee to distribute Trust assets to you. You could also ask for Trustee removal (subsection (10)), a Trust accounting (subsection (7)), and appointment of a new Trustee (subsection (10)).
Whatever your issue may be, section 17200 provides your path for suing the Trustee and obtaining the proper relief and actions you deserve under your Trust.