Invalidating a Trust is not a simple process. Reasonable steps must be completed with the statutes of limitations.
Steps to Invalidate a Trust
If you are considering petitioning the court to invalidate a Trust in California, you should consider a few crucial points regarding the trust litigation process. Yes, in California, you can sue a trust as long as you are a beneficiary of the Trust, i.e., receive some benefit. You will, however, need a trust litigation attorney.
Once again, only a beneficiary can petition the courts that the Trust is invalid. To do so, you must comply with a set of standards “prior” to petition the courts, or you may look unreasonable to the courts.
A beneficiary will usually find counsel due to the complexity of the nature of contesting a trust. You will need to have a valid reason with supporting evidence before even attempting to petition the court.
Now, what determines if a Trust is invalid? Well, first of all, one of the higher points of the pecking order is “undue influence.” Undue influence is where you believe your loved one was instructed by another beneficiary, for example, to change the Trust to their advantage, leaving you without your inheritance.
Example of Possible Invalid Trust Scenario
Example of siblings contesting a trust: A brother and sister will receive a parent’s inheritance once they pass away. During that time, the sister lives with the parent to manage their checkbooks, finances, etc. While the parent was on hospice care, the Trust had significant changes done to it. You may be able to show that the Trust amendment made was not consistent with your parent’s wishes based on past events.
When can I contest a Trust in California?
You see, when the settlor/ grantor is alive, the Trust is “revocable,” meaning it can be changed anytime as long as the settlor/grantor is still living. Once the settlor/ grantor dies, then the trust instrument becomes irrevocable straight away, and no changes can be made to the Trust. It’s at this point where you need to begin gathering the evidence as there are statutes of limitations. At this time, a successor trustee enters into the picture to manage the estate.
The successor trustee has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries to keep abreast of all changes, including receiving a copy of the Trust. Note: There are many time limits. Therefore, consult an estate planning attorney for the best outcome.
Here is a partial list of reasons to invalidate a Trust.
- Incompetence and Undue Influence
- All states require the trustor to be mentally competent
- No undue influence
- No Suffering from mental illness at the time of signing
- Can include dementia
- Substance abuse which calls into question their capacity to create a legal binding document.
- Documentary defect Contest
- Violating Provisions
- Trusts must be written or typed and signed by:
- The maker of the will (trustor)
- Needs two witnesses who were present at the signing.
- Each witness must sign the Trust or the will
- Multiple wills and Trusts
- There are times when a Trustor was married and later divorced and has a Trust. Then, the trustor remarries and creates another Trust and takes into consideration his/her “blended family.” The question arises, which is the primary document, and this is the bone of contention.
Takeaway: Many times, there is a Terrorem clause, which states that anyone who contests the Trust can be eliminated from the Trust moving forward.
Here at Hess-Verdon, we counsel clients on various aspects of estate disputes. Such as investigating potential claims, evaluating the merits of bringing a claim, filing or defending a claim, and when necessary litigating a claim through trial or settlement.
With our expert team of trust litigators, in many instances, we can settle such proceedings without going to trial after taking into account the merits of the positions advanced by the respective parties and the tax rules applicable.
Rest assured, the Hess-Verdon team is here to help you. Unlike some other law firms, we are a full-service firm. Handling thousands of probate and trust litigation cases helps us know exactly steps are crucial for your situation.