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Trust litigation: Challenging the validity of a trust

On Behalf of | Feb 29, 2024 | Trust & Estate Litigation

When a loved one passes away, the last thing you want to do is to navigate a complicated, contentious legal battle. 

However, a legal challenge could be necessary if your loved one established a trust and you wish to contest it. A trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee, whether a person or an institution, manages the property and assets of a third party or beneficiary. If you are a beneficiary or a potential beneficiary of a trust and you do not agree with the terms in the document, can you challenge and change it?  

Am I legally able to contest a trust?  

Just like challenging a will, other parties interested in the property and assets included in the trust can contest it. These parties could include beneficiaries who are not happy with the terms, excluded individuals who believe they should be included, and parties concerned with how the trustee is managing the assets.  

According to California law, interested parties can file an objection for up to 120 days after the trustee serves the required notification. 

Grounds for contesting a trust 

You cannot contest a trust based solely on not liking or agreeing with the terms. Challenges must stem from specific circumstances, such as:   

  • Lack of capacity: Adults should be over 18 and of sound of mind when creating legally binding documents such as a trust. If you have concerns with your loved one’s capacity when making trust-related decisions, a challenge can be appropriate. Adults can lack the capacity to make legal decisions if they have dementia or have issues with substance abuse.
  • Undue influence or fraud: A person who coerces or influences the decision of an individual (in this case, the grantor) can be a factor when contesting a trust. Forgery and fraudulent practices that benefit the influencer can also be grounds for challenging a trust.

There are other factors to consider when challenging a trust. Due to its complexities, it is essential to diligently review documents and provide proof of any irregularities before contesting a trust.