How do I subpoena documents from a lawyer?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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