Trusts, conservatorships, and other estate planning arrangements are often used to protect assets from uncertainty and from misuse. However, even the most carefully made estate plan could be jeopardized when a trustee or other fiduciary lays claim to properties and possessions that should have already been distributed to heirs.
Section 850 Petitions
A Section 850 Petition allows estate beneficiaries and other interested parties to request the court to order the transfer of assets into or out of:
- An estate
- A trust
- A conservatorship
- A guardianship
Section 850 petitions have a variety of potential uses and applications. However, they are typically used when there are disputes surrounding the ownership or management of certain estate assets.
California’s Heggstad Petitions
A Heggstad petition is a sub-category of a Section 850 Petition that can be used to compel the transfer of property into or out of a trust. Heggstad petitions are usually created if the trustor—the person who established the trust—passed away before completing an intended transfer by themselves.
While Heggstad petitions are usually filed by the successor trustee appointed to administer the trust after the trustor’s death, they can also be utilized by heirs and other interested parties who believe the successor trustee has abrogated their fiduciary duty to properly manage assets that are either owned by the trust or should be owned by the trust.
When to Use a CA Section 850 or Heggstad Petition
California’s Probate Code ordinarily requires that significant trust disputes be settled in court. However, the costs of resolving a trust contest or trust lawsuit can be high. Even when trust challenges fail, the successor trustee may be obliged to use the trust’s financial assets to defend the entity, preventing beneficiaries from receiving the entirety of their inheritance.
Section 850 and Heggstad petitions allow beneficiaries and other interested parties to sidestep formal probate proceedings. After a Section 850 or Heggstad petition is submitted to the court, the court will determine whether the asset should be moved into or out of the trust.
If the court approves the petition, the asset may be transferred without the need to initiate more intensive probate litigation.
A Section 850 or Heggstad petition could help trustors quickly resolve disputes without an expensive and potentially divisive lawsuit. However, even though Section 850 petitions are a convenient means to bypass probate litigation, the success of a filing is almost always contingent on whether or not the petitioner can provide compelling evidence of the deceased trustor’s intent.
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