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Contesting a Trust

How to Legally Contest a Trust
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How to Legally Contest A Trust

The Laws on Contesting a Trust. What are your options?

Beneficiaries and trustees often ask if a trust can be challenged. A trust may be challenged for many reasons. You may want to contest the trust if you feel you were left out of the trust or if you think that the assets are being mismanaged. Call Hess Verdon, California’s most renowned trust attorney, at (949) 7076-7300.

What’s a Contested Trust?

A contested trust refers to a trust that is being challenged in court by beneficiaries, trustees, or other interested parties. The court will examine the trust and its contents to determine if there are grounds to challenge the trust’s validity. Because trusts can be vague or open-ended, contesting them allows the Trustor to fulfill their wishes.

Why do I want to contest?

It is not a decision you should take lightly when contesting a trust. It can lead to positive outcomes, but it can also have serious consequences. If you decide to contest a trust, and lose your case, you will likely have to pay all legal costs associated with prosecuting the case. Even if your case is successful, fighting over property or money could cause long-term harm to your relationships with beneficiaries.

Can a trust be contested?

It’s possible but not always easy. It is necessary to show that the living trust was not valid or that the creator was incapable or poorly informed about its contents when the living trust was signed.

There are two valid reasons you may have a problem with trust:

What can invalidate a trust?

You may find out that a trust was established to transfer assets after someone dies. A Trust is essential. It allows the estate to avoid probate. But, you don’t have to agree with the trust terms. You can contest trusts for many reasons.

Undue influence

Most trusts are challenged because the trust maker cannot understand or is influenced by another person. Dementia, mental illness, or being under 18 could cause a lack of capacity. Unlawful influence is when one person manipulates another to sign documents that don’t reflect their wishes.

Fraudulent inducements

Fraudulent inducements are the most challenging type of fraud to prove. This requires proof that the grantor fraudulently signed the trust instrument. The grantor must prove that they wouldn’t have created the trust if they had known about the fraudulent inducement. If you’re told that you’re signing a contract to buy a car, but instead, you discover you have signed a trust instrument. It might not be possible to claim that the grantor didn’t read or comprehend what they signed in this situation.

Lack of disclosure

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

Ambiguity in the trust instrument.

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.

The trust may not be what the deceased intended.

It is possible that the deceased changed their Will and then did not update their trust. The court might have to decide which document is valid if there is a conflict between them. You can work with a financial advisor and an estate attorney to resolve the issue. If that fails, you might need to take your case to court.

The trustee misuses their power.

The trustees are expected to act in the best interest of everyone. Imagine that they are spending money on their own instead of following instructions. They might be breaking the law by spending money on themselves instead of following instructions.

The trustee hasn’t been managing accounts correctly.

The trust gives instructions to trustees. Beneficiaries could be affected if trustees make mistakes or mismanage the trust. If investments are involved, mismanaging funds can be very costly. Losses could result in less money for beneficiaries or even zero if the account is in debt. If you suspect that this is happening, get legal advice immediately.

A trustee is acting against your best interests.

Fiduciary duties are owed to beneficiaries. They must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and the Trustor. Beneficiaries may have the right to sue trustees if they fail to do their job correctly.

Deadlines and Limitations for Contesting a Trust

The date that you became aware of the Trustor is the deadline to file a contest of trust. There are also limitations on when you can contest trusts. If you wait too long, courts might dismiss your contest. Before deciding whether it is worth filing a contest, it is essential to talk with a trust attorney about your particular situation.

Time Limits to Contest a Trust

Only a person can contest a trust if they do it within the specified time period. This time limit is usually determined by the date the trustee sends notice of trust to potential beneficiaries or the decedent’s heirs (the person who created the trust). The limitation period could be extended if the notification is not sent in writing to beneficiaries. Anyone considering challenging a trust should consult an attorney.


Often, disputes trusts are for personal, emotional, and complex reasons. Before you take action, it is essential to understand your options thoroughly. Hess-Verdon’s experienced lawyers are available to assist you in getting the results you need. Contact us at (888)318-4430.

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