When you are the beneficiary of an estate, it is preferable to handle affairs and the distribution of assets quickly so as not to drag out the process. Having a trust in place is one way to do this because sometimes a will can get caught up in probate court for lengthy periods of time. A trust does not require probate and allows the estate administrator and beneficiaries to move through distribution quickly. But this also means that the court does not oversee the process, and therefore the parties involved must determine the authenticity of the process.

So what are you to do when you question the validity of a trust? Or, what should you do if you think a trustee is mishandling funds and distribution?

According to California law, you have a finite amount of time to challenge a trust.

Is there a Time Limit on Trust Contests?

Yes, there is a statute of limitation for when a trust contest can be filed. After the decedent’s death, a trustee has 60 days to notify all beneficiaries or heirs with a Notification by Trustee that indicates they have begun the estate administration. In California, once an interested party receives the notice, they have 120 days to contest or raise questions about the trust’s validity. If notice is never received, the statute of limitation remains open.

Who can Contest a Trust?

Not just anyone can contest a trust. The only persons who can do so are those who have a vested interest in the trust. This may include named beneficiaries or heirs, relatives, caretakers, or persons who were named in a previous will or trust who aren’t any longer.

It is important to note that California law typically upholds a contest clause, and therefore if a trust beneficiary brings a contest against a trust that is upheld, they stand to lose all the inheritance. Though, an experienced trust attorney may gain an exception if there is valid evidence or reason.

What Warrants a Trust Contest?

A trust contest can be filed if there is any reason it is believed to be invalid. Such reasons include if the person who created the trust lacked the mental capacity due to Alzheimer’s, dementia, or stroke, if they were under undue influence to create the trust, or if the trust involved forgery or improper signature.

If you believe there to be any impropriety at all, it is wise to contact a specialized attorney immediately whether you decide to file a contest or not. They can help guide you through your options and help you to determine if you have a valid case.

Can I Contest a Trust after Distribution?

If a trust has already been distributed, it is not impossible to contest the validity. Though this is not common, and it is not very likely that distributed assets can be retrieved. Therefore, filing to contest a trust after distribution is typically only beneficial if assets have been untouched. Because of this, it is crucial to speak to a litigation attorney and file for contest as soon as possible if you believe a trust to be invalid.

Who can help Contest a Trust?

The laws surrounding a trust contest can be complicated and specific, therefore, it is wise to hire an attorney who specializes in trust and estate planning. Do you need help invalidating a trust? The Legacy Lawyers can help.

Our practice areas include administration, estate planning, and litigation. Therefore, we understand all perspectives of a trust contest. Our team wants to ensure that you receive the entirety of the benefits your loved one intended for you. Call us today to schedule an initial consultation so we can help you make it right.