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Contesting a Trust

How to Contest a Trust in California
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How to Legally Contest a Trust

The Laws on Contesting a Trust. What are Your Options! 

Can a trust be contested is a question Trustees and Beneficiaries ask. There are many reasons someone may want to contest a trust. If you have been left out of the trust or think the assets have been mismanaged, you may consider contesting the trust. Call Hess-Verdon, California’s top trust attorney, at (949) 706-7300. 



Chances of Sucessfully Contesting a Trust

What is a Contested Trust?

A contested trust is a trust that has been challenged in court by a beneficiary, trustee, or another interested party. When the trust is contested, the court will review the trust and its contents to determine whether there are grounds for challenging the trust’s validity. Contesting a trust allows the Trustor’s wishes to be carried out as intended since it’s not unusual for trusts to be written so that they’re vague or open to interpretation.

Why Do I Want to Contest?

The decision to contest a trust should never be taken lightly. While it can have many positive results, it can also have negative consequences. If you choose to contest a trust and lose your case, you’ll likely have to pay all legal fees associated with prosecuting your case. Additionally, even if you win your case, your relationship with other beneficiaries may suffer long-term damage due to fighting over money or property.   

Can a trust be contested? 

Yes, but it’s not easy. You’ll need to prove that the living trust is invalid or that the person who created it was in some way incompetent or ill-informed about its contents at the time of signing. 

Below are a couple of valid reasons why you might have an issue with a trust: 

What Can Invalidate A Trust?

When someone dies, you may learn that they had a trust to transfer their assets. Having a Trust is good news – it means their estate will be able to avoid probate. However, that doesn’t mean you have to accept the terms of the trust without question. There are several valid reasons why you might want to contest a trust.

Incapacity or undue influence

The most common reason for contesting a trust is that the person who made it could not understand what was going on or was under undue influence from another person. A lack of capacity could be due to dementia, mental illness, or simply being too young (under 18). Undue influence refers to when one person manipulates another into signing documents that do not reflect that person’s wishes.

Fraudulent inducements

Fraudulent inducement will be the most difficult to prove. It requires evidence that the grantor was fraudulently induced into signing the trust instrument. The grantor must show they would not have created the trust had they known of the fraudulent inducement. For example, if you are told you are signing a contract for a new car, and instead, you find out you signed a trust instrument. However, it might be difficult to argue that the grantor did not read or understand what they were signing in this circumstance.

Lack of disclosure

A lack of disclosure occurs when an agent does not disclose all material facts to the grantor. This section is easier to prove because it does not require evidence of deceit or misrepresentation, only a failure to disclose all material facts.

Ambiguity in the language of the trust instrument

This section is relatively easy to prove in court because it only requires ambiguity in the language of the trust instrument; it does not matter whether there was any intent by someone to deceive. It only matters that the language was ambiguous and resulted in a loss to one of the parties. Often this can occur when standard form documents are used and provisions do not fit particular situations.

The trust is not what the deceased intended.

The deceased might have changed their will and then not updated their trust. If there’s a conflict between the two documents, the court may be forced to decide which one is more valid. Ideally, you can resolve this issue by working with a financial adviser and estate attorney to determine which document should be followed. But if that doesn’t work, you may need to go to court.

The trustee is misusing their power.

Trustees are supposed to act in everyone’s best interests. Suppose they’re spending money on themselves instead of following directions. In that case, they might be violating the law. If you suspect this is happening, you should gather evidence and contact a trust attorney specializing in trust litigation

The trustee isn’t managing accounts properly.

Trustees are supposed to follow instructions left in the trust. If they’re making mistakes or mismanaging the trust, it could cost beneficiaries necessary money. Mismanaging funds could be severe if investments are involved since losses could mean less money for all beneficiaries at the end of the day or even nothing if the account goes into debt. Again, seek legal advice as soon as possible if you think this is happening – don’t wait until it’s too late.

You believe a trustee is not acting in your best interests.

A trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of beneficiaries and the Trustor. When a trustee is not doing their job correctly, it might be possible for beneficiaries to take action against them when there have been losses due to their mismanagement. 

Limitations and Deadlines for Contesting a Trust

The deadline for filing a contest of a trust is usually tied to the date you were made aware of the Trustor should have been made aware of the trust. In addition, there are limitations connected to when you can contest a trust, so if you wait too long, the courts may dismiss your contest. It is essential to discuss your specific situation with a trust attorney before deciding whether or not it is worth filing the contest. 

Time Limits for Contesting a Trust

A person has the right to contest a trust only if they do so within the time limit specified in the trust document. This time limit is often based on the date that the trustee mails notice of the trust to potential beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent (the person who created and signed the trust). If there is no such notice in writing to potential beneficiaries, then the limitation period may be different. Therefore, it is essential for anyone considering contesting a trust to consult with an attorney. 

Contested trusts are often for complex, emotional, and personal reasons. It’s essential to understand your options before taking action. Our experienced attorneys at Hess-Verdon are ready to help you get what you deserve. Call us today at (888) 318-4430.

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