I believe there is a trust in my name which I should have access to, but the trustee won’t transfer me the money. I’d like a lawyer to help me understand my rights better, but I called my free local legal counselling and they said they don’t do trust funds. It seems ironic that I can’t afford the lawyer that could make the case for me to get my money. Is there any law guaranteeing me my right to dispute the management of my trust in a court of law? How can I get the legal expertise I may need, in order possibly to exercise my right?

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    What jurisdiction is this in (country, and if a federal country such as Canada, the US, or India, what state or province)? Nov 19 '21 at 22:47
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    The trust is in my country of citizenship, US, California, but I reside in Germany. Nov 20 '21 at 1:22

You may be confusing the right to an attorney if you cannot afford one that is applicable only in CRIMINAL cases, not civil cases like you are discussing.

You may be able to get an attorney to take your case on a contingency basis but there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. The attorney has to have some expectation that the case is winnable.
  2. The amount to be recovered must be worth the risk of taking on this case.

In other words, for the attorney it's more of a business question that a legal one.

Many attorneys will give you a free 30 minute, more or less, consultation. Perhaps you might give that a try.

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    When you answer a question that does not explicitly specify the jurisdiction with an answer that is specific to one jurisdiction, or some limited group, please indicate this either by including a tag near the top of the answer, or by a statement in the body of the answer, or both. Nov 19 '21 at 22:51
  • Thanks for the tip!
    – jwh20
    Nov 19 '21 at 22:59
  • Thanks. What about just sidestepping the idea of getting a lawyer at all, paid or free, and just alerting the relevant authorities that the trustee is refusing to pay me? Can the law be applied in this way? I mean, what’s the single official next action to take? Can I just sign some paperwork transferring control of the trust over to me? Nov 20 '21 at 1:26

There are a variety of cases, including some breaches of fiduciary duty by trustees, in which you can, after you have hired and paid a lawyer of your own, receive reimbursement from the trust or the trustee for some or all your legal fees.

But this is the exception to the general rule, often fees aren't fully recoverable in practice, and when it does happen, it happens after the fact.


Is there any law guaranteeing me my right to dispute the management of my trust in a court of law?

There may well be such a law, although that depends on the jurisdiction involved. But that is not the same as a law guaranteeing a free lawyer, and there quite likely is no such law, again depending on the jurisdiction of the case.

  • Thanks. So how can I get past the barrier of not being able to afford a lawyer? Is there a way I can bring the case to the attention of the government, and they can prosecute if I report wrongdoing seems to be occurring? Nov 20 '21 at 1:24
  • If what has been doe is a crime then you can report it and it may be prosecuted. But most problems with trusts would be torts or other civil actions, not crimes. You may be out of luck. You may be able to convince a lawyer to take the case on a contingent basis, where you pay only if you win. But that is a gamble for the lawyer, and will depend on the estimated chance of success and the amount at stake. No lawyer must take such cases. You might be able to borrow the money for the lawyer. You have the right to represent yourself, but that is often unwise. Nov 20 '21 at 1:31
  • So whatever legal strategies may be at my disposal, I’ll have to research them myself since I can’t afford to pay a trained person and free help is hard to come by? Do I have the ability to change the trustee? But, can you name anyone as the trustee or do they have to be qualified? Nov 20 '21 at 1:38

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