If a trustee was refusing to disburse funds to a beneficiary and a case could be made that they did not have any sound reason for withholding, what legal actions does the law provide, to lawyers or citizens, to enforce the terms of the trust? (In California, USA).

I mean, I would like to know a list of options: sue them in a civil court? How does one do that, file paperwork at a local court or something?

Is there any other option than suing, like submitting a case to a local court and having them make a court order to the trustee to pay?

Or, if I have the right to change trustees, how do I formally undertake that action? Can I appoint myself as the trustee?

And so on: what actions exist?

1 Answer 1


Virtually none

Subject to the trust deed, the trustee decides what is in the best interests of the beneficiary. The trustee does not have to take the wises of the beneficiary into account or even find out what they are.

How trustees are replaced and who is eligible to act as trustee will be spelled out in the deed. Outside of that, barring any obvious illegality - like the trustee using the trust assets for their own benefit, there is no chance of replacing a trustee.

If you are alleging a breach of trust:

  1. Be careful. Falsely accusing someone of a crime is defamation.
  2. I can’t speak for California specifically but trust matters are usually beyond the jurisdiction of local courts. If you need to take this to the State Supreme Court, that will be expensive and require some serious legal expertise.

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