How do I subpoena documents from a lawyer?

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How do I subpoena documents from a lawyer?

My grandfather died 3 years ago. The trustee for his estate is my aunt. The two beneficiaries are myself and my aunt, 50/50, with the condition she choose her 50 first. I have not yet received a single accounting. My grandfather’s lawyer indicated when I called in frustration, that I should subpoena the

correspondence they sent to my aunt. Every lawyer I talk to, either A wants no part of a family squabble, B wants to spend years and money I don’t have or a huge contingency removing my aunt as trustee. I want to know what’s in that correspondence and nudge my aunt toward distribution. Is that something I can do on my own in CA?

Asked on August 23, 2017 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Subpoenas can only be issued in the context or course of a lawsuit. If you believe the trustee for the estate (are you sure she is a "trustee"? the usual term in connection with an estate  is "executor," if there was a will, or "adminstrator" or "personal representative," if there was no will) has been failing in her responsibilities or cheating the other beneficiary (you) to benefit herself (sometimes called engaging in"self dealing"), you could file a lawsuit against her and the estate seeking an accounting--that is, to make her account for her actions as trustee, etc. In the course of that lawsuit, you could subpoena material from the attorney (i.e. the correspondence), though be aware that some of that material may be protected from disclosure by the "attorney-client privilige." Since a person may represent him/herself "pro se" in court, you could do this on your own. You would first file the lawsuit; then you would issue the subpoena(s) to get information and documentation.


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