Understanding 850 Petition for Return of Trust Property

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Property disputes often arise during trust and probate litigation, causing delays in beneficiaries claiming their rightful inheritances. Fortunately, California’s Probate Code Section 850 provides a legal avenue for a trustee or beneficiary to seek a determination regarding the ownership of property which should be part of the decedent’s trust or estate. Among the frequently utilized mechanisms under California’s Probate Code Section 850 is the Heggstad Petition. In this article, we aim to offer you a comprehensive understanding of the purpose and utility of an 850 Petition, as well as the significance of a Heggstad Petition, and provide guidance on accessing these legal remedies.

What is an 850 Petition?

understanding of 850 Petition

In California, a Petition filed under Probate Code Section 850 is an extremely versatile tool which can be used in many different situations involving any claim relating to trust property, real or personal. Probate Code Section 850 essentially functions as a means to settle disputes related to the ownership of trust property.

Sections 850 and onward within the Probate Code do not establish or replace substantive legal principles. Instead, Probate Code Section 850 serves as a procedural avenue for addressing questions of ownership or possession. Consequently, nearly any dispute concerning trust property can be addressed through the provisions of Probate Code Section 850. The requisites for such a claim under Probate Code Section 850, as well as the relevant time limits for legal action, are determined by the laws pertinent to the underlying issue in question.

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the key aspects of an 850 Petition and its application in California:

Initiating the Petition:

  • Eligibility: The petitioner, usually a beneficiary, heir, or interested party, files a petition in the probate court where the decedent’s estate is being administered.
  •  Grounds for Petition: The filing of an 850 Petition under the California Probate Code is generally brought when the property in question belongs to the decedent’s estate or trust and said property is being wrongfully held, concealed, or misappropriated by someone else. In this instance, the underlying cause of action may be fraud, undue influence, or financial elder abuse. The elements of these causes of action would need to be proven for a petitioner to prevail on the 850 Petition, and Probate Code Section 850 simply serves as the procedural avenue to bring the issue before the probate court.

In determining whether to file an 850 Petition, it is important to keep in mind just how versatile an 850 Petition is. For example, an 850 Petition may be used in situations which include, but are not limited to the following:

o   Claims for Title to or Possession of Real or Personal Property 

o   Enforcement of Specifically Enforceable Contractual Obligation Affecting Trust Property 

o   Spousal Property Claims

o   Marvin Rights for Unmarried Cohabitants 

o   Joint Tenancy Disputes 

o   Title by Adverse Possession 

o   Unlawful Detainer Issues

o   Elder Abuse Claims

o   Creditor’s Rights

  • Enhanced Remedies: An advantage to filing an 850 Petition over pursuing a claim in civil court is that under Probate Code Section 859, the petitioner may be awarded double damages against any person who, in bad faith, has  taken, concealed, or disposed of property belonging to a conservatee, a minor, an elder, a dependent adult, a trust, or a decedent’s estate. Probate Code Section 859 also provides for double damages against any person who has taken, concealed, or disposed of the property by the use of undue influence in bad faith, or through the commission of elder or dependent adult financial abuse. In order to obtain these enhanced remedies, petitioner must prove that the property was taken in bad faith. In addition, the prevailing petitioner, in the court’s discretion, may recover reasonable attorneys fees and costs.

Filing the Petition:

  • Detailed Information: The petition must contain specific details about the property, the alleged wrongful holder, and the reasons why the petitioner believes the property is wrongfully held, i.e., the underlying cause of action which must be proven.
  • Notice to Interested Parties: The Probate Code also requires notice to be given to interested parties, including potential heirs, beneficiaries, and the alleged wrongful holder.

 Court Proceedings:

  • Evidentiary Hearing: The court may hold an evidentiary hearing to assess the admissible evidence presented by both parties. During this hearing, the petitioner must provide convincing evidence to support their claim that the property belongs to the estate or trust and is wrongfully held.
  • Legal Representation: It is advisable for all parties involved to have legal representation. Competent trust litigation attorneys can present a strong case, ensuring that the petitioner’s rights are protected and that the court receives accurate information.

Court Decision:

  • Judgment: The court will issue a judgment after considering all evidence and arguments. If the court finds in favor of the petitioner, it may order the return of the property to the estate or trust, and if bad faith is proven, the court may double the damages and order the respondent to pay the petitioner’s reasonable attorneys fees and costs. 
  • Enforcement: If the alleged wrongful holder fails to comply with the court’s judgment, further legal action, such as contempt proceedings, may be initiated to enforce the judgment.

Importance in California:

●  Protecting Rights: The 850 Petition is a vital legal tool in California, ensuring that rightful heirs, beneficiaries, and trusts are protected against the misappropriation of assets.

●  Resolving Disputes: It provides a legal avenue to resolve disputes related to trust properties and estates through the probate court, maintaining the integrity of the probate process.

In summary, an 850 Petition in California empowers individuals to reclaim property that belongs to a trust or estate but is wrongfully being held by another party. This legal mechanism plays a significant role in safeguarding the rights and assets of beneficiaries and heirs, ensuring that property disputes are resolved justly under the law.

What is a Heggstad Petition?

Heggstad Petition

A Heggstad Petition is filed under California Probate Code Section 850 and requests that the court provide an order confirming that ownership of real or personal property is held within a trust. A Heggstad Petition is appropriate when the person who established the trust (the settlor) created an inter vivos trust with themselves as the trustee and intended that specific property should be considered a trust asset. However, despite this intention, the formal transfer of property title to the trust never occurred, as exemplified by the Estate of Heggstad case.

Nevertheless, as discussed above, it’s important to note that Probate Code Section 850 is not limited solely to Heggstad situations. It can be employed to ascertain property ownership in a variety of circumstances that extend beyond the specific scenario outlined in the Heggstad case.

How Does a Heggstad Petition Work? 

  1. Trust Intent: To initiate a Heggstad Petition, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended for the property in question to be part of the trust. This evidence often comes in the form of a pour-over will or any other written document expressing the decedent’s intent to include specific property in the trust. 
  2. Filing the Petition: The trustee or beneficiaries of the trust file a petition with the probate court, providing evidence of the decedent’s intent to include the property in the trust. This evidence can include the decedent’s will, statements in other legal documents, or any written communication indicating the intent to place the property in the trust. 
  3. Notice to Interested Parties: Notice of the Heggstad Petition must be given to interested parties, such as heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors, providing them with an opportunity to contest the petition if they believe the property should not be included in the trust.
  4. Court Review: The court reviews the evidence presented in the petition, and if the court is convinced that the decedent intended for the property to be part of the trust, the court will then order the property’s transfer into the trust without requiring formal probate of the property.

Heggstad Petitions are especially useful in cases where a decedent did not properly fund their living trust during their lifetime. By proving the decedent’s intent to include specific assets in the trust, beneficiaries and trustees can avoid the long and expensive probate process that would otherwise be required to transfer these assets.

However, it’s important to note that Heggstad Petitions can be complex, and the success of the petition depends on the strength of the evidence presented. It’s highly advisable to consult with an experienced trust administration attorney in California to navigate this process successfully and ensure that the decedent’s intent is effectively demonstrated to the court.

Why The OC Trial Group is Your Trusted Partner in Trust Property Recovery Through 850 Petition in California

OC Trial best firm for 850 Petition

Navigating the intricacies of Probate Code Section 850, especially when it involves complex matters such as trust property disputes, demands legal expertise and a deep understanding of the nuances of California law. Here’s why OC Trial Group stands out as your ideal legal representation in recovering trust property with an 850 Petition in California.

1. Expertise in Property Disputes: OC Trial Group boasts a team of renowned and skilled attorneys well-versed in property disputes, specifically those related to trust properties. With a wealth of experience, they understand the intricacies of 850 Petitions, ensuring that their clients receive the most informed legal counsel.

2. Expertise in California Probate Law: OC Trial Group’s extensive understanding of the California Probate Code provides them an unparalleled understanding of the unique challenges[BB2]  faced when trust property is not titled in the name of the trust. Their in-depth knowledge of local legislation and precedents gives clients a strategic advantage when navigating the legal landscape of trust property disputes.

3. Comprehensive Understanding of 850 Petitions: OC Trial Group not only comprehensively understands the legal intricacies of California Probate Code Section 850, but they also possess a deep insight into the differences of filing an 850 Petition vs. filing a civil action seeking the same relief. They can guide clients through the entire procedure, from explaining the differences between filing an action in probate court vs. civil court, to representing them effectively in court proceedings.

4. Personalized Approach: Recognizing that each trust property dispute is unique, OC Trial Group takes a personalized approach to every case. They meticulously analyze the specific details of each situation, tailoring their legal strategies to address the unique challenges faced by their clients, ensuring the best possible outcome.

5. Proven Track Record: OC Trial Group has a track record of success handling trust property disputes in California. Their past achievements speak volumes about their expertise, commitment, and dedication to ensuring that property owners reclaim what rightfully belongs to them.

6. Collaborative and Supportive: The team at OC Trial Group is not just your legal representatives; they are your partners in the fight to recover your trust property. They maintain open lines of communication, keeping clients informed and empowered throughout the entire process, offering support and guidance at every step.

Conclusion: Your Trusted Advisor in Navigating 850 Petitions 

OC Trial Group stands as your trusted ally in understanding and utilizing California Probate Code Section 850 to successfully prevail in actions relating to trust property disputes. Their team of skilled attorneys provides expert guidance, ensuring a seamless process from filing petitions to court representation.Their personalized approach sets them apart. Analyzing unique cases meticulously, they tailor strategies to your specific challenges, ensuring a successful outcome. With a proven track record and unwavering support, OC Trial Group transforms a daunting legal process into manageable, successful endeavors, making them not just legal representatives; they’re your dedicated partners. With them, you can confidently reclaim what’s rightfully yours, securing your future and the legacy you deserve. Ready to resolve your property disputes? Contact OC Trial Group today and pave your way to a secure tomorrow.

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