Losing a loved one is one of life’s biggest challenges. This challenge can be made even more difficult when it brings about family discord. Unfortunately, finances and assets can cause family members to lean into rivalries and resentment when they feel they’ve been treated unfairly. This typically plays out in the form of a trust contest when a sibling believes they have legal grounds to invalidate a trust.
So how can you ensure that your estate planning allows your children or loved ones to mourn in peace without the stress of hiring a trust contest attorney and causing confusion in probate court? You can structure your trust against it. Let’s take a look at trust contests to learn more.
Who Can Contest a Trust?
Not just anyone can contest a trust. The only people who can challenge a trust are those with legal standing. This includes heirs and beneficiaries, usually immediate family members, such as children and parents. Additionally, non-related or distantly related persons who are named in a trust or have previously been named in a trust may have legal grounds to challenge a trust.
Grounds for Contesting a Trust
A trust cannot be contested simply because someone believes they’ve been treated unfairly. A disgruntled beneficiary must have a legal reason for doing so that falls under at least one of four main grounds. The trust must have been written under undue influence from someone who would benefit from the trust, the decedent must have lacked the mental capacity to establish or make changes to the trust, the trust must not meet legal signature requirements, or if the trust involved fraud or forgery.
In any of these cases, the contester must have evidence that the trust is invalid, and they must prove that the trust was established under one of these conditions, such as lack of capacity. They must also bring the contest within the allotted timeframe, usually within 120 days after notice of trust administration is received under probate code section 16061.7.
Avoiding a Trust Contest
If you know that there is potential that a loved one will be upset by their inheritance, or lack thereof, or if you want to ensure that unnecessary strife will not occur after your passing due to your assets, there is a simple step you can take that can hinder a contest. That is by the inclusion of a contest clause. This clause written into your trust states that if someone brings a challenge to your trust, then they forfeit their right to the property at stake. This simple statement may thwart any plans of challenge for fear or concern of losing if a beneficiary does not have a genuine legal reason to challenge your trust.
Do You Need Assistance in Estate Planning?
Do you need help from a litigation attorney in establishing your will and trust? Or perhaps you believe you have grounds to seek to contest a trust in California? Understanding the legal process for writing or contesting a trust can be tricky, let our team help you.
At The Legacy Lawyers, our team specializes in the process of writing and establishing trusts, but also in challenging or defending them in court as well. Therefore, we understand both sides of the coin and can help to structure your legal documents in a way that will benefit you and your family members, and we can also assist you in ensuring that a trust is valid.
Call us today to discuss your needs.