Do I Have A Right To See My Parent’s Estate Plan?

Hi. This is Marc Herbert from Herbert Law Office with the Question of the week, which is, do I have a right to know what’s in my parents estate plan? Now, this question usually comes up in the context of someone who hears their parents or their children or somebody talking about building an estate plan, putting together a trust, a will, a health care directive, a power of attorney, something along those lines, and someone wanting to know if they can have access to that information.

So the answer is no. You don’t have a right to know what’s in your parents estate plan during their lifetime. And part of the reason for that is that the estate planning can change, especially if it’s been a few years. Most trusts another documents should be updated every 3 to 5 years. So what they wrote at first probably is going to change over time.

You know, there can be changes in family structure, asset structure, state law, federal law. People are retiring, people are downsizing. So the documents are also going to change during their lifetime. So even if they gave you a copy a few years ago, what you’ve got may have changed substantially during their lifetimes. Now, I always do recommend to my clients that they give a copy of all those documents to their trustees, executors and agents.

I find that very helpful for my clients to have the ability to sort of rehearse what they’re going to be doing in the event that the parents become ill or pass away. So I recommend that, but they’re certainly not under any obligation to actually do that. So if you believe that you are named as a successor trustee or as an executor or an agent, you might just want to ask your parents for a copy of their documents just so you can rehearse what you need to do for them and to do a better job for them.

Now everything changes, though, when your parents or other loved ones pass away. If you believe that you are the heir or a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or maybe a41k, you do have a lot of rights under California law as an heir. So the successor trustee or the executor has a duty, a fiduciary duty to protect all the beneficiaries and to give them a copy of the final drafts of all the documents we’ve just been talking about.

They also have a duty to provide an annual accounting as well, showing exactly what the starting balance was in the deposits and distributions and showing you what the end of year totals are for all the different accounts. So if they fail to provide a copy of the documents or failed to provide an accounting after a year, you can go to court and try to remove that person from their status, whether again that’s agent, executor or trustee.

You have to be careful though. If you decide to do that, though, many of these documents have what’s called a no contest clause where if you’re attacking the document, you might be disinherited for doing that. But always remember, attacking the document is different than challenging the trustee or the executor who’s supposed to be following that document. Here at Herbert Law Office, we offer a free consultation for you to come on in to talk about your specific situation, to go through the paperwork with you, discuss your options, and then you can decide the best way to protect your inheritance rights.

If you’re interested in that free consultation, just give us a call at 6612739007. Talk to you soon.