How Can I Contest a Trust in California?

Trusts are frequently used by families as part of estate planning for parents to convey their assets to children and avoid the California probate process. As a result, many inheritance disputes involve trust disputes and lead to lawsuits. It is known as trust contests. A trust may have been created or amended by an elderly parent who lacked the necessary capacity to make decisions.

A trust document may have been changed to benefit one beneficiary at the expense of others. If you suspect fraud or undue influence in the creation or revisions of a trust, then contesting it in a California court is your option to fight for your inheritance. A trust contest is a legal objection to the validity of a trust.  Having a trusted contest attorney who understands California laws (creation and administration of trusts) is your safest choice.

How Our Trust Contest Attorneys Can Help

We have extensive litigation experience in courtrooms throughout California. Albertson & Davidson has recovered more than $130 million in court verdicts and negotiated settlements for our clients. The attorneys at Albertson & Davidson, LLP help individuals and families in California work through disputes involving contested trusts.

Let the California trust litigation attorneys at Albertson & Davidson, LLP review the details.  Discuss with them how to contest a trust in California and whether a trust contest lawsuit is appropriate in your case. Call (877) 227-5366 to reach a trust contest lawyer. We handle trust contest litigation on a contingency fee basis.  You can obtain skilled legal representation without any upfront costs.

Why Should You Contest a Trust?

Here are some situations where contesting a trust may be necessary:

  1. If you believe the person who created the trust was unduly pressured or coerced into creating trust. The same with making changes to the trust document. We look to assess whether the parent was vulnerable to undue influence. Also whether there was a bad actor who was trying to manipulate the parent or elder. What actions were taken? For example, if a grown child threatened or exerted undue pressure on an elderly parent to make changes to a trust, that may be grounds for a trust contest.
  2. If you believe that the person who created the trust (known as the settlor) was not mentally competent when he or she signed the trust. A trust is only legally valid if the person who made the trust was cognizant of what he or she was doing. Attorneys at Albertson & Davidson can seek medical evidence such as a diagnosis of dementia. It is to show that an elder parent who created a trust was not competent when the trust was signed.
  3. Lack of capacity and undue influence are frequently cited grounds in trust contests.
  4. You may need to file a trust contest if you suspect fraud in the creation or administration of the trust.
  5. You may challenge a trust if the person who helped set up the trust (other than the settlor) will benefit from the trust.
  6. You may contest the trust if there were issues with how the trust document was signed or witnessed. California law has specific requirements about the signing of a trust document to make it valid.

A trust may be contested on similar grounds as a will can be challenged in California.

It’s important to read and understand the terms of the trust and talk with an experienced trust contest lawyer. If you challenge a trust on the basis of fraud, duress, lack of mental capacity, undue influence and you do not have probable cause, the chances are that you may lose your right to receive benefits from the trust, if there is a no-contest clause.

But in some situations, filing a trust contest is your only option to stand up for your rights and fight for your inheritance.

What Happens When a Trust is Contested?

A trust contest lawsuit is filed in the California probate court, stating the basis for challenging the trust and the supporting evidence.

After the trust lawsuit has been filed, attorneys at Albertson & Davidson will move quickly to subpoena three sets of relevant documents. We will subpoena the documents from the estate planning attorney who set up the trust.

The second set of documents we subpoena are the medical records of the person who established the trust. We look for medical issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s or others that may have affected the person when the trust was created.

We also subpoena financial records that can show cash withdrawals by a bad actor. It is the individual who was exercising undue influence over a parent or elder.

These types of records can provide strong evidence to help you obtain a satisfactory settlement of a trust contest. It can also be used to support your claim if the case goes to trial. If a trust contest is successful, the court will invalidate the trust or set aside a trust amendment.

A court can also remove a trustee for breach of trust, for taking excessive payments or if the individual is unfit to act as trustee.