What Is an Action to Return Assets?

An action to return assets is a legal process that can be used to obtain a court order to return money or property that was wrongfully taken from a trust. In cases of theft or other situations where trust property is inappropriately obtained by the trustee or another individual, an action to return assets empowers you to get the misappropriated assets back.  

What is an action to return assets wrongfully attained from a trust?

An action to return assets wrongfully obtained from a trust is a legal process allowed by California Probate Code 850 to return assets that were improperly taken from a trust to the trust. 

Under California Probate Code 850, you can file a petition requesting the court to order the wrongfully taken property to be returned. California Probate Code 856 states that, if the court believes that the property should be transferred, it can issue an order authorizing and directing the trustee or the person having title to or possession of the property to transfer it to the trust or directly to its beneficiaries. The court may also use its discretion to grant “other appropriate relief.”

In addition to an order to return the property, California Probate Code 859 requires the person who took the property to pay twice the value of the property recovered if the court finds that they wrongfully took, concealed, or disposed of property belonging to a trust in bad faith. 

How do I file an action?

To file an action to return assets wrongfully obtained from a trust, you will need to submit a petition to the court that states what you believed happened and requests that the court order the property to be returned. The petition must include necessary facts to support your request.

Under California Probate Code 851, you must provide formal notice of the hearing and a copy of the petition to the trustee, all beneficiaries, and each person claiming an interest in, or having title to or possession of, the property.

The notice of hearing must contain the following information:

  • A description of the property that is sufficient to provide adequate notice to any party who might have an interest in the property
  • For real property, the street address or, if none, a description of the property’s location and assessor’s parcel number
  • If the petition seeks double damages under California Probate Code 859,  a description of the relief sought sufficient to provide adequate notice to the party against whom that relief is requested
  • A statement advising any person interested in the property that they can file a response to the petition

Do I need a probate lawyer to file an action?

While California law does not require you to have a probate lawyer to file an action, it is difficult to succeed in any legal action on your own. An experienced probate litigation attorney knows the detailed and nuanced requirements of the law, and having professional representation will significantly increase the chance of the trust assets being recovered. 

If assets have been wrongfully obtained from a trust, you should contact a probate lawyer immediately. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that the assets will be recovered.  A skilled probate attorney can provide legal advice on the best course of action to protect your interests.

Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.
Call (424) 320-9444 or email [email protected]

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About RMO, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit https://rmolawyers.com/.

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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