Providing Customized Legal Solutions Since 1979

Understanding California Probate Code Section 16061.7: A Trustee’s Guide

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Firm News

As an attorney specializing in estate planning and probate law, I often encounter clients who are navigating the complexities of California’s legal system for the first time. One area that frequently arises is the requirement outlined in California Probate Code Section 16061.7 regarding notice to beneficiaries and heirs. In this blog post, I’ll break down what this section entails, when notice must be given, who receives notice, and the potential consequences of failing to provide proper notification.

What is California Probate Code Section 16061.7?

California Probate Code Section 16061.7 sets forth the duty of a trustee or executor to provide notice to beneficiaries and heirs when there is a change in trusteeship or upon the creation of an irrevocable trust. The purpose of this provision is to ensure transparency and fairness in the administration of trusts, allowing beneficiaries and heirs to be informed of their rights and interests in the trust estate.  You do not need to send a copy of the Trust with this notice, although the recipient of the notice can request a copy of the trust. As a best practice, I almost always include a copy of the Trust with the notice.

When Does Notice Go Out?

Notice must be given within 60 days of the trustee becoming aware of the event triggering the duty to notify. This timeframe is crucial, as failing to provide timely notice may result in legal consequences.  Honestly, it can be difficult to meet this deadline if you are taking over after the Settlor of the Trust has passed away.  Getting a copy of the trust, death certificate, obtaining current address for heirs and beneficiaries can cause delays, but you should try and get the notice out with all the information available as soon as you are able.  The key is to get the notice period running and that does not start until notice is sent.

Who Gets Notice?

Beneficiaries and heirs are entitled to receive notice under Section 16061.7. Beneficiaries are individuals or entities named in the trust document to receive distributions or benefits from the trust, while heirs are individuals who would inherit from the decedent’s estate if there were no trust in place. It’s important to note that even if a beneficiary is also an heir, they must still receive separate notice in their capacity as a beneficiary.  The code also provides what should be included in the notice.  The notice should contain information about the Settlors of the Trust, the contact information for each Trustee and the location of where the Trust is being administered.  In addition, the notice must include information about contesting the terms of the Trust.  The notice should inform the beneficiaries that they have 120 days from the date of the notification is served on them or 60 days from the date on which a copy of the Trust is delivered, whichever is later.

Consequences of Failing to Give Notice

Failure to provide notice as required by Section 16061.7 can have serious ramifications. California courts have consistently held that strict compliance with the notice provisions of the Probate Code is necessary to protect the rights of beneficiaries and heirs. In the case of Estate of Heggstad (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 943, the court emphasized the importance of notice, stating that it is a fundamental aspect of due process in trust administration.

If a trustee fails to give notice as required by Section 16061.7, beneficiaries and heirs may petition the court to compel compliance or seek other appropriate remedies. Additionally, the trustee could face personal liability for any harm caused by the failure to provide notice.

In conclusion, understanding California Probate Code Section 16061.7 is essential for anyone involved in the administration of a trust or estate in California. If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a beneficiary or heir, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced probate attorney who can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

Contact Mauriah Conway, Esq. to assist you with all of your Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration Needs (916) 920-5983.