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Where to file a trust petition in California

In many cases it’s easy to determine where to file your trust petition. See California probate code sections 17000-17006 pasted below for ease of reference. In a probate case you file where the decedent lived at death. That is the county, in California, where they were last a resident. This can, in some cases, be unclear. For example, we often have cases where the decedent lived in Roseville (Placer county) for 50 years but 3 months before death moved to a nursing home in Carmichael (Sacramento county). Did they move their residence or were they just staying in Carmichael temporarily? You look at things like intent to move back home, was the home rented out, did they re-register to vote, etc…. In a trust it’s totally different.

In a trust it does not matter where the decedent resided. The correct county is where the principal place of trust business takes place. Well, if the trustee lives in Alaska how can you get into a California Court? That is, what if mom dies in Sacramento and son, the named successor trustee, lives in Alaska. I have looked at this a couple ways. I have used the theory of mom’s former home as being the place where mail is received and thus Sacramento county is still proper. I believe that’s a stretch though but it has worked. The probate code does allow for “…trustee or its representative who is primarily responsible
for the administration of the trust
.” Emphasis added. Who falls into that category? Am I as the attorney “primarily responsible for the administration of the trust?” I believe that argument will work in most counties in California but I would rather have a different theory if possible.

In any event, just remember that the rules for venue in a trust are completely different than for a standard probate case.

-John

PROBATE CODE SECTION 17000-17006

17000. (a) The superior court having jurisdiction over the trust
pursuant to this part has exclusive jurisdiction of proceedings
concerning the internal affairs of trusts.
(b) The superior court having jurisdiction over the trust pursuant
to this part has concurrent jurisdiction of the following:
(1) Actions and proceedings to determine the existence of trusts.
(2) Actions and proceedings by or against creditors or debtors of
trusts.
(3) Other actions and proceedings involving trustees and third
persons.

17001. In proceedings commenced pursuant to this division, the
court is a court of general jurisdiction and has all the powers of
the superior court.

17002. (a) The principal place of administration of the trust is
the usual place where the day-to-day activity of the trust is carried
on by the trustee or its representative who is primarily responsible
for the administration of the trust.
(b) If the principal place of administration of the trust cannot
be determined under subdivision (a), it shall be determined as
follows:
(1) If the trust has a single trustee, the principal place of
administration of the trust is the trustee’s residence or usual place
of business.
(2) If the trust has more than one trustee, the principal place of
administration of the trust 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.

17003. Subject to Section 17004:
(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.

17004. The court may exercise jurisdiction in proceedings under
this division on any basis permitted by Section 410.10 of the Code of
Civil Procedure.

17005. (a) The proper county for commencement of a proceeding
pursuant to this division is either of the following:
(1) In the case of a living trust, the county where the principal
place of administration of the trust is located.
(2) In the case of a testamentary trust, either the county where
the decedent’s estate is administered or where the principal place of
administration of the trust is located.
(b) If a living trust has no trustee, the proper county for
commencement of a proceeding for appointing a trustee is the county
where the trust property, or some portion of the trust property, is
located.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in subdivisions (a) and (b), the
proper county for commencement of a proceeding pursuant to this
division is determined by the rules applicable to civil actions
generally.

17006. There is no right to a jury trial in proceedings under this
division concerning the internal affairs of trusts.

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