Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on September 15th, 2016

Trustee Fraud: An Overview of “Trustee De Son Tort”

Sometimes, in the course of a California trust administration, fraud committed by a trustee is discovered. This fraud can harm beneficiaries and reduce the inheritance that they otherwise would have received. Fortunately, victims can pursue an action against the trustee. California beneficiaries can sue a third party who assisted the trustee in breaching the trust. This is referred to as “trustee de son tort” because the third party was attempting to act as a trustee without authority.

What exactly is trustee de son tort? Trustee Fraud. The following are some highlights:

  • A person who wrongfully holds themselves out as a trustee and exercises authority over property can be treated as a trustee and therefore sued for breach of duty in California.
  • California courts have held that a person should not have the ability to assume the rights and benefits of being a trustee without also accepting the responsibilities that come with that role.
  • A trustee de son tort is someone who becomes a trustee without having a right to do so. He or she becomes a trustee by inter-meddling with trust property without authority.
  • A trustee de son tort is typically not entitled to a trustee’s fee.
  • A beneficiary can bring a claim against a third party who participated in a trustee’s breach of trust even if a successor trustee has subsequently been appointed.
  • A beneficiary can also bring a claim against the third party and the trustee simultaneously in a trustee de son tort situation.
  • The beneficiary does not have to provide any evidence of a conspiracy to prove the trustee de son tort claim.

Regardless of whether your matter involves a claim against a current, former, or de son tort trustee, our office is here to help.

If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form.  If you want a comprehensive overview of California Probate, then click here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, then you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.