Hess-Verdon & Associates
Trust Litigation [Contesting a trust in California]

CAN A TRUST BE CONTESTED

Yes, you can contest a trust just like a Will but only by individuals with “legal standing.” It can be challenged on several grounds, including lack of mental capacity, undue influence, Trust procured by fraud, and other legal grounds violating the Trust’s purpose and terms. Now, contesting a trust does have a statute of limitations; therefore, it’s critical to contact a California estate planning attorney for an attorney-client relationship.

GROUNDS FOR CONTESTING A TRUST

You can only file a lawsuit if you have legal standing, such as an heir or beneficiary, to contest the Trust. Finding a trustee attorney to guide you through the estate plan is essential. A trust attorney will guide you through the investigation, pleading, discovery, and potential trial and appeal stages to accomplish contesting the Trust. Understand if there is a no-contest clause and how California law Hess-Verdon & Associates are well versed in trust and probate litigation. Call 949-706-7300.

CONTESTING A LIVING TRUST IN CALIFORNIA

HESS-VERDON – #1 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TRUST & ESTATE LAW FIRM

(DEEP BENCH COURT TIME)

How to Contest a Trust in California

Whether you are the California Trustee, Beneficiary, or Heir of a Living Trust, the question is, “can a Trust be contested?” The quick answer is, “Yes, a trust can be contested!” When contesting a trust, i.e., disputing a Trust, voiding a Trust, or invalidating a Trust, you will need to consider how the Trust is invalid, and a trust litigation attorney will be invaluable. Is the Trust invalid due to state trust laws, undue duress, or forgery? When you are disputing a Trust, you seek to change the inheritance, Bequest, gift, or the distribution per the Trust agreement.

Now, as a brush-up, there are different types of Trusts, and they fall into two categories.

The categories are the following:

  1. Revocable Trusts
  2. Irrevocable Trusts 

Both categories of Trusts are open to the trust contest.

You will have to file a lawsuit in the state’s probate court (also called venue) that has jurisdiction over the Trust. Note: Once the grantor / Trustor dies, all trusts are considered “irrevocable.”

When you file your lawsuit, the probate court will determine the following:

  1. Do you have the standing to sue, i.e., you have some vested interest in the Trust and outcome
  2. You have a legal argument that supports your trust contest.

In this article, we here at Hess-Verdon & Associates have put together information that will help guide you to the right decision before expending valuable time and effort in finding an estate litigation attorney. If you have one or more of the following possible reasons to contest, we would suggest contacting our firm. You will receive an upfront counsel and give you a percentage of outcomes based on your viewpoint. Learn about us here and why we are the choice for trust contests.

Trust Disputes and what to know

Trusts are very complex legal instruments.  When disputes arise based on trustee administration disagreements, a trust dispute lawyer can help mitigate possible mediation, arbitration or litigation.

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What are the reasons to contest a trust?

We will outline the ideas here and how you should prove your challenge to the Trust.

You may find that someone has a trust to pass their assets upon death. Having a Trust is good news, as it allows the estate to avoid probate court. But, you don’t have to agree with the trust terms. You can contest trusts for many reasons.

Incapacity, also known as Lack of Capacity

Most trusts are challenged because the trust maker cannot understand (mental capacity) or is being influenced by another person. You could have dementia, mental illness, or be too young (under 18).

Undue influence

Undue influence is when one person manipulates another to sign documents that don’t reflect their wishes. Here at Hess-Verdon & Associates, to prove undue influence, a series of information would need to be collected, like the grantor’s medical records, for example.

Fraudulent inducements: i.e., Unduly pressured or coerced.

This section is the most difficult to prove. This section requires proof that the grantor was fraudulently induced to sign the trust instrument. The grantor must prove they wouldn’t have created the Trust if they had known about the fraudulent inducement. If you’re told that you are signing a contract to buy a car, but instead, you discover you have signed a trust instrument. In these circumstances, it might not be possible to claim that the grantor didn’t understand or read what they were signing.

Lack of Disclosure

An agent failing to disclose all relevant facts to the grantor is considered to lack disclosure. This section is simpler to prove as it doesn’t require evidence of deceit, misrepresentation, or fraud. It only involves failure to disclose all material facts.

Ambiguity in Trust instrument language

This section is easy to prove in court, as it only requires that the trust instrument language be ambiguous. It doesn’t matter if there was an intent to deceive. It is only essential that the language was unclear and caused a loss for one party. This can happen when standard forms are used, and specific provisions don’t fit particular situations.

More reasons to Contest 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 calls into question their capacity to create a legally binding document.
  • Documentary defect Contest
  • Forgery
  • Violating Provisions
  • Trusts should be written or typed and signed by:
  • The maker of the will (trustor)
  • It needs two witnesses who were present at the signing.
    • Each witness should sign the Trust or the will.
  • Multiple wills and Trusts
  • Sometimes, a Trustor was married and later divorced and has a Trust. Then, the trustor remarries, creates another Trust, and considers their “blended family.” The question arises, which is the primary document, which is the bone of contention.

Not a Trust Contest; it’s the administration of the Trust. (will not trigger a no-contest)

1st Takeaway: There is a window of 120 days in which an objection should be filed IF the Trust has already been admitted to probate

Once the Trustee gives notice to the beneficiary’s via the Notice of Irrevocability or Notice of Trust Administration sent via mail notice, you have 120 days under probate code section 16061.7 to act. Learn more about how long a trust can remain open after death

Contesting a Trust in California

2nd Takeaway: There is a window of 120 days in which an objection should be filed IF the Trust has already been admitted to probate. Once the Trustee gives notice to the beneficiary’s via the Notice of Irrevocability or Notice of Trust Administration sent via mail notice, you have 120 days under probate code section 16061.7 to act.

3rd takeaway: An extension is possible if the beneficiary requests a copy of the Trust document after receiving the initial notice.

4th Takeaway: If you are a beneficiary and fail to file a Trust contest within the 120 days, you will forever be barred from contesting the Trust in the future. 

Our stance: This is a crucial topic, and a competent estate planning attorney must review all aspects. Ensure your estate planning attorney works closely with probate litigation matters.

Are you still considering contesting a trust? Learn about Hess-Verdon. Over 30 years in trust contests! Call now at 949-706-7300.

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Contesting A Trust In California And What To Know!
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Client Since 1994

Contesting A Trust In California And What To Know!

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Client Since 2006

Contesting A Trust In California And What To Know!
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Client Since 1995

Contesting A Trust In California And What To Know!
“Definitely a firm that will “fight to the finish.”
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Client Since 2010

Contesting A Trust In California And What To Know!
“I have been working with this firm since 1994; you can’t beat a firm like this, that is so ethical and competent.”
Dixie Fisher

Client Since 1994

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