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Will And Trust Contests

Will And Trust Contests

Close to one-third of the American adult population has estate planning in place. This suggests at least 33% of the population will go through a beneficiary process at some point in their lives. Understanding beneficiary rights, such as the ability to contest a will or remove a trustee, can make the process easier.

Can a Trust Be Contested?

Only in exceptional cases do you have the grounds to contest a will or trust. Those named in the legal document as a beneficiary have the right to contest. The same applies to anyone with the potential to become a beneficiary if the contest shows the original inheritance document was invalid. In most cases, the people who contest inheritance documents are:

  • Beneficiaries

  • Successors to the deceased

  • Those who benefited from the inheritance document in an earlier version

What Are Some Valid Grounds for Contesting a Trust?

Some people contest inheritance documents when they believe their percentage of an inheritance isn't in accordance to what they discussed when the decedent was still alive. It's also common to contest inheritance documents when a new beneficiary shows up in the final version. It's not simple to contest inheritance documents.

Most courts normally side with the last will and testament when deciding such cases. However, if you can prove the provisions of the document are invalid based on a recognized ground, the court can make the document void. The grounds on which you can contest a will or inheritance document are large in number and not limited to:

  • Undue influence

  • Forgery

  • Lack of mental capacity

  • Elder abuse

  • Issues with the testator

  • Lack of will formalities

  • Lack of testamentary capacity

  • Probate appeals

  • Execution problems

  • State requirements not met

  • Existence of another will

  • Property disputes

What Happens to Trust Assets After a Successful Trust Contest?

Generally, if all of a trust becomes invalid, the assets get distributed based on a previous valid inheritance document. If no such will or trust exists, the assets usually get distributed based on state intestacy laws.

What Are the Differences Between Contesting a Trust and Contesting a Will?

No matter the reasons to contest a will or trust, doing so becomes much harder when a trust is present. Why?

Because trusts are often drafted by seasoned estate planners with a clear understanding of potential contesting pitfalls and how to prevent them. Trusts are also harder to contest because the grantor of a living trust remains involved in its administration. This makes it is far more difficult for a plaintiff to prove that the grantor lacked testamentary capacity or the ability to make sound decisions when creating the inheritance document. 

Furthermore, with a trust, you may have trustees involved. These trustees help make trust-related decisions in the event the grantor lacks testamentary capacity. Lastly, trusts are harder to contest than wills because most trusts get created years in advance of the trustor's death. This is unlike wills, which frequently get created when the creator believes death is close, causing him or her to make unsound decisions based on stress.

How Long Does a Person Have to Contest a Trust?

In most states, you have 120 days after the admission of an inheritance document to probate to file for contest. When will and trust contests are successful, a portion or all of the terms become void. The judge decides which terms and conditions, if any, are still valid.

Are You Considering Contesting a Will or Trust?

Trusts that violate public policy, such as those that restrict individuals' rights to freedom of religion or marriage, are void under the Uniform Trust Code (UTC). A trust procedure starts when a contester submits a civil complaint or petition. This is unlike a will contest, which requires filing a motion in conjunction with the administration of the estate. An experienced estate attorney can help those who want to set up a trust as well as those who wish to contest.

Our attorneys will explore all legal options available in your case, and develop strategies to help protect your rights. Call 949-852-8181 to schedule a consultation with a lawyer at our firm.

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