You, like many Californians, may feel stuck as the beneficiary of a mal-administrated trust where fraud and other illegal activities take place. Has your trustee ever made questionable decisions regarding the trust that do not promote its best interest, such as paying others with its total sum? When a fiduciary controls an estate plan for their sole benefit or breaches their legal duties attached to it, you may wonder whether you have the power to contest the trust.
We will elaborate on legal advice about contesting a trust in California so you will be informed and know how to proceed with an untrustworthy trustee.
What Does Trust Contest Mean?
Contesting a trust (also known as trust disputing, voiding a trust, or invalidating a trust) refers to when a beneficiary, heir, or family members file a petition challenges a trust’s validity. They seek to change the inheritance, bequest, or distribution they’re set to receive from the trust and estates left behind by a deceased loved one.
How to Contest a Trust in California?
Generally, California probate courts will allow a trust contest if there is credible evidence of foul play in the process leading to the trust’s creation and administration. You will have to partner with a trust contest attorney at a law firm that will listen intently to your case and walk you through the litigation process.
Why Could Trigger a Trust Contest in California?
Trust contests most result from the following situations described below:
1. Trust Does Not Represent the Settlor’s Intent
The trust’s beneficiaries can file a lawsuit claiming that someone exerted undue influence over the trustee by manipulating them to set up the trust. However, these kinds of ulterior motives are often difficult to prove and are challenging cases to provide evidence for.
2. Language of the Trust is Ambiguous
When the trust language is ambiguous and leaves room for different interpretations by beneficiaries and the trustee, the beneficiary may petition the probate court into action. The two main angles you can take on your trust contest case are requesting they modify the trust or provide a declaratory judgment, elaborating the settlor’s intent.
3. Trust Does Not Serve its Purpose
If current realities prevent the trustee from administering the trust as specified in the trust document, the beneficiaries may resolve to dissolve the trust. In other cases, the trust may contain provisions that allow beneficiaries to dissolve the trust.
What Are Legal Grounds for Contesting a Trust?
1. Lack of Legal/Mental Capacity
If the settlor lacked sufficient mental capacity when they executed the trust, you could argue that it was invalid. Medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, strokes, and dementia are all viable reasons and signs you should look for.
2. Undue Influence or Coercion
If you can prove that the decedent created the trust under coercion, undue influence, or pressure from someone (usually a close family member, caregiver, or supposed beneficiary), a qualified probate court can invalidate the trust.
If another party forged or doctored the living trust documents, creating room for a trust contest and criminal charges that you can take advantage of.
Is There a Time Limit for Contesting a Trust?
Yes, under Probate Code section 16061.7, you have 120 days to contest a trust after receiving the Notice of Trust Administration from the trustee. However, it is a complex process that you should leave in the hands of a trust contest attorney that can help.
Does a No-contest Clause Stop me from Contesting a Trust?
While many states do not enforce the no-contest clause, California is one of the few states that do. However, if you have probable cause (credible reason) to contest the trust, it may not be enforced against you, and you will not lose your inheritance if the contest falls through.
Our Experienced Lawyers Can Answer Your Trust Contest Questions
Whether you still doubt your ability to contest your trust or have any further questions about the process, we are always available to help you. We are a force of talented probate litigation attorneys that would love to hear the details of your trust contest case in our free initial consultation and get you the answers you need.
Call our office at (800).840.1998 or visit our website to fill out our contact form, and we will get back to you shortly. We are proud to serve Los Angeles residents and the surrounding areas in California.