Trust Litigation Jurisdiction and Venue
If you’re involved in a trust dispute where parties live in different locations, you may wonder where the court case will take place. The two main issues involved in this question are jurisdiction and venue. In this blog post, we’ll explain the basics of trust litigation jurisdiction and venue.
What is “Jurisdiction”?
The term “jurisdiction” refers to the legal ability or right of a court to make a decision about the issues being contested in the matter. Jurisdiction focuses on which state and which court have the power to make decisions about a particular person’s rights and responsibilities.
When it comes to a litigated trust matter, the superior court in the state where the “principal place of administration” is located would have jurisdiction. Probate Code section 17002 defines the “principal place of administration” as the state where most of the day-to-day activities involving the trust administration occur.
Jurisdiction with Multiple Locations
If the trust is being administered in more than one state by a single trustee, then the Probate Code defines the principal place of trust administration as the state where the trustee resides or where their “usual place of business” is located.
If there are multiple co-trustees, then the principal place of trust administration is “the residence or usual place of business of any of the cotrustees as agreed upon by them or, if not, the residence or usual place of business of any of the cotrustees”.
Out-of-State Trustees or Beneficiaries
What if the trustee or the trust beneficiaries lives outside of California? Probate Code section 17003 answers this question as follows:
(a) By accepting the trusteeship of a trust having its principal place of administration in this state the trustee submits personally to the jurisdiction of the court under this division.
(b) To the extent of their interests in the trust, all beneficiaries of a trust having its principal place of administration in this state are subject to the jurisdiction of the court under this division.
In other words, regardless of where the trustee or beneficiaries live, they may be subject to the jurisdiction of a California court if a lawsuit is filed there.
What is Trust Litigation Venue?
The term “venue” refers to the appropriate geographical place (or county) to file a particular trust case. Under Probate Code 17005, the proper county to bring a lawsuit against a trustee is in the county where “the principal place of administration of the trust is located”. This rule differs from a probate estate, where the venue is the county where the decedent was living at the time of their death.
If a living trust has no trustee, the proper venue is “the county where the trust property, or some portion of the trust property, is located”.
Determining the proper jurisdiction and venue for a litigated trust matter can be complex. An experienced trust administration lawyer can assist you in determining the trust litigation jurisdiction and venue so you can bring an action in the more appropriate location. Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions on this topic.
Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt
The Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt is a California law firm specializing in Estate Planning; Trust Administration & Litigation; Probate; and Conservatorships. We've helped over 10,000 clients find peace of mind. We serve clients throughout the greater Sacramento region and the state of California.