Under California law (Probate Code section 16061.7) every trust beneficiary, and every heir-at-law of the decedent, is entitled to receive a copy of the trust document. However, the beneficiaries only have the right to obtain a copy of the trust when their rights have vested. The beneficiary’s rights vest when the trust becomes irrevocable, which is usually upon the death of the grantors (persons who created the trust). The trustee is not required to provide a copy of the trust to a beneficiary if the trust is revocable.
If you are the beneficiary named in a California trust, you have the right to see a copy of the trust. If your rights have vested, you can request a copy of the trust directly from the trustee.
Should the trustee refuse to provide a copy, we can file a petition with the probate court. The rights of a beneficiary vest in a trust when it becomes irrevocable. For most revocable trusts, the trust becomes irrevocable when the creator of the trust passes away. Before the death of the grantors, trust documents can be revised at any time. This includes changing the beneficiaries or what they are entitled to receive. As such, the beneficiaries have no assurance that they are beneficiaries permanently. Therefore, they have no right to view a copy of the declaration. When the trust creators pass away, the terms of the trust can no longer be amended (changed). Since the trust terms have become irrevocable, the beneficiaries now have a vested interest in the trust property. Once the interest of the beneficiaries has vested, they have a right to receive a copy of the trust instrument under California trust law.
As an Estate Beneficiary, you have certain rights and the ability to fight for those rights. Contact First Class Counsel to learn more about your rights.