Contesting Trusts

Emotions can run high during the process of distributing assets from a will or trust, and there are many reasons why someone will contest a trust. Surviving family members may feel they were provided for unfairly, or there might be concerns surrounding the legality of the trust or its administration. 

When there’s an issue with a trust, a contestation can be brought forward. This challenges the terms of the trust and can cause amendment or even elimination of the trust.

Whether you need to contest a trust or defend a trust from contestation, an experienced estate planning attorney at Loew Law Group has the knowledge necessary to fight for the best outcome in your trust dispute. 

Who can contest a trust?

Only a small group of people with close relationships with the deceased can contest a trust. People who can bring forward a trust contestation include:

  • Heirs
  • Beneficiaries
  • Spouse

If children, a spouse, or other beneficiaries believe that the assets in a trust have been distributed unfairly, or aren’t in keeping with the wishes of the benefactor, they can follow through with contesting the trust. 

Trustees, executors, and administrators are the people in charge of overseeing finances and administering a will. These individuals will likely also need the services of a trust attorney when the trust they’re responsible for is challenged. 

A few specific laws exist to help guide the actions of a trustee when a trust comes under contestation. Even when a trustee is also a beneficiary, they have the right to use funds from the trust to hire an attorney to defend the trust from contestation.  

Reasons for Contesting Trusts

Mere dissatisfaction with the distribution of assets in a trust does not constitute grounds for contesting it. Trust disputes in California must fall under one of the valid grounds for contestation. 

Legally recognized reasons to contest a trust include:

  • Incapacity
  • Fraud 
  • Forgery
  • Mistake
  • Undue influence
  • Revocation
  • Elder abuse

If your attorney cannot build a case on one of these grounds, attempts to contest a trust will be difficult and may not be successful. An attorney can assess if your reasons for contesting a trust can be presented in a manner that fits within one of these legitimate grounds of contestation. 

Building a Case for Contesting Trusts

A trust can be contested in its entirety or in part. Sometimes, a later amendment is added to the trust. If an amendment seriously altered the earlier terms of the trust, it may be sufficient to simply contest the amendment. When no amendment exists, it will be necessary to contest the entire trust. 

In most cases, there are two main reasons for contesting a trust. Either there is an issue with how assets are allocated or heirs and beneficiaries have a problem with how the trustee is administering the trust.  

The first step in contesting trusts is to begin working with a trust attorney. Your attorney will learn the details of the case and form an argument in defense of you contesting a trust. 

Remedies for a Trust Dispute

Once an attorney has built a strong case for your dispute, the contest may go through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR can be less costly and time-consuming than going to court. 

When ADR is ineffective, a serious trust dispute will need to go through probate. Probate court will make the final decision whether to uphold the contestation or keep the trust in its original form. In addition to charging court fees, probate court can take one to three years to resolve. This means that if ADR is possible, it’s the preferred method for resolution.   

Remedies for a trust dispute will depend on the reason for contestation. When a contestation is centered on trustee mismanagement, it’s possible to have the trustee removed and a new one appointed. 

Contesting trusts that arise from heir and beneficiary dissatisfaction with the terms of the trust can be more complex. The allocation of assets in a trust can create strife between family members. The person contesting the trust will be seeking a greater share of the assets, which means a reduction for other beneficiaries. 

Remedies for contesting trusts can range from a redistribution of assets to a dissolution of the trust in its entirety. Outcomes depend heavily on the specifics of the case, the grounds for contestation, and evidence to support the contestation. 

Loew Law Group Can Contesting Trusts Dispute

Loew Law Group is an estate planning law firm dedicated solely to legal issues surrounding wills, trusts, and disputes in these areas. Every experienced trust attorney at Loew Law Group possesses the specialized knowledge required to successfully navigate the complications of a trust dispute. 

If you need to contest a trust or need help defending a trust from a dispute, Loew Law Group is ready to assist you. Contact Loew Law Group today to speak with a trust attorney about how to take action over a trust contestation.