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Why your Relationship With the Grantor Matters in Trust and Will Lawsuits

If you are trying to overturn a Trust or Will (or an amendment to a Trust or Will), you will find that your relationship with the decedent is going to be a big issue in your case. But what does it matter if you had a good relationship with the decedent?

The funny thing is, your relationship with the decedent is not one of the legal elements for overturning a Trust or Will. To overturn a Trust, for example, you have to use legal grounds such as undue influence or lack of capacity. If you look at the legal elements for those claims, they say nothing about your relationship with the decedent.

Take undue influence as an example. There are four elements for undue influence: (1) vulnerability of the victim, (2) actions and tactics of the wrongdoer, (3) apparent authority of the wrongdoer, and (4) an inequitable result. None of those elements ask whether you called your mother twice a month.

And yet, your relationship to the decedent will not only be the most talked about part of your case, it could also be the most persuasive (or unpersuasive, if your relationship was bad) part of your case. Why?

Remember your Trust or Will contest case will be decided by a judge in California—not a jury. And judges are people. They want to make the right decision. They want to honor what they believe would have been the true intent of the decedent. Would this person have disinherited their child? Does this seem reasonable under the circumstances?

When you start asking these types of questions, then relationships matter. If you have a child who hadn’t talked to their mother in over ten years, and they end up being disinherited, it kind of makes sense. Compare that to a child who had a close relationship with mom, and then ten days before mom died she “amended” her Trust to leave everything to her caregiver whom she knew only two months. Does that make sense? Not really.

You see, it comes down to what is persuasive. There is the legal argument—that’s the actual legal elements for something like undue influence. And then there is the persuasive argument—that is the back story. Was there a close, loving relationship that an outsider interfered in? If so, that is far more persuasive than a story where there was no relationship or a bad relationship.

Let’s face it, people are people. You need to be mindful of that when you bring a Trust or Will lawsuit. The judge wants to reach the right result, but you have to give them a compelling story of your relationship with decedent if you want to increase the persuasiveness of your argument.

At Albertson & Davidson, we are dedicated to helping people obtain what is rightfully theirs. Our experienced attorneys know how to help people out of challenging situations. We are prepared to assist you. Call us today for a free case evaluation!