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San Jose Trust Contest Lawyer
When starting the estate planning process, establishing a trust can secure a direct line of inheritance between you and your loved ones. However, a trust is sometimes established without the grantor’s full control or understanding over its creation. This could create grounds to challenge or contest the validity of the trust. The San Jose estate planning attorneys at Huber Fox, P.C., can help in challenging or defending the validity of a trust.
How a Trust Works
A trust is a legal arrangement that allows for asset distribution after the death of the grantor. Designed to easily facilitate the asset division process, a grantor can establish a trust to avoid extensive probate procedures. This allows their loved ones to access their assets faster. The three types of trusts that are typically used in an estate plan are revocable, irrevocable, and testamentary trusts. The breakdown for each is as follows:
- Revocable Trust: A revocable trust is a trust that, once it has been established, the grantor (i.e. the person who established the trust) may modify or revoke. Upon the grantor’s passing, a revocable trust turns irrevocable because the grantor is unable to alter or revoke the trust at that point.
- Irrevocable Trust: In contrast to a revocable trust, an irrevocable trust cannot be modified once it has been established. It is set in place until the grantor passes away.
- Testamentary Trust: A grantor can only establish a testamentary trust through their will. Assets must enter a testamentary trust because of that will. Therefore, it must undergo probate court proceedings to establish what assets are in the trust. Testamentary Trusts have become very uncommon in recent years.
Reasons for Contesting a Trust
Although presumed to be legally sound, a trust can be established with a false sense of security or understanding. This can lead to problems during the probate process. Some common situations that can lead to a contested trust include:
- Fraud or Forgery: If it can be proven that a trust was established due to fraud, it may be deemed invalid. False promises, or coercion in some cases, can lead a grantor to establish claims or clauses in their trust that do not make sense. This is especially true if the grantor was taken advantage of by the party named in the trust. Trust disputes can also include incidents of forgery, poor construction, or other legal concerns with the document.
- Grantor Was Not Mentally Sound: For a trust to be enforceable, the grantor must have had sufficient mental capacity while creating the trust. The necessary competence ranges from knowing what they wish to do with their estate to having contractual capacity. If both abilities cannot be proven, or if modifications to a trust were made during a more severe period of illness or cognitive decline, this could be grounds for challenging the trust.
- Grantor Was Pressured Into Creating a Trust: The court will consider several factors to decide if there was undue influence, including:
- The person’s vulnerability to undue influence
- Whether the individual was secluded from others who could protect them from undue influence
- Whether there was a private relationship between the grantor and undue influencer
- Whether the assets will excessively benefit the party guilty of undue influence
It is best to speak to an estate litigation lawyer about the aspects of a trust that make contesting it valid. Be sure to include any information about the grantor, primarily about their mental state or health conditions that could affect their decision-making abilities. From there, your lawyer can help properly address these issues.
How to Contest a Trust
Probate Code Section 16061.7 states that any contest to a trust currently in the litigation process must be done within 120 days from when the trustee sends out what is commonly called a Trustee’s Notice. The Notice is required to specifically state the 120-day limit. In California, contesting a trust entails filing a claim with the court and any necessary paperwork. Together, the records will serve as the case’s foundation. To increase their chances of success, trust beneficiaries who intend to contest the trust should hire the services of an experienced trust litigation law firm.
If the court finds that a trust was created or written improperly, or that the grantor was taken advantage of by a third party during the creation of the trust, the court will invalidate the trust. Before beginning the process, you should speak with a reputable estate planning attorney about the trust and how to properly go about contesting it. Acting within that 120-day window is imperative to address any problems with a trust before assets, heirlooms, and pieces of sentimental property go missing.
Huber Fox is our family attorney. Jonathan is honest and always has his client's best interests when making decisions.- Laurie G.
Jonathan Huber provided expert legal advice, in a timely fashion and guided us through the entire process with genuine concern and attention to detail. We’d highly recommend his services.- K. Hernandez
Jonathan Huber and his staff demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism with attention to detail and consistently prompt turnaround.- Chris S.
On behalf of my late son and myself, I want to thank you all for your help & kindness during this terrible time.- Former Client
Jonathan Huber and his staff made it easy to get our trust set up through his office.- Sunny O.
Huber Fox, P.C. was very helpful in going through the probate court process- Former Client
I will always recommend Huber for any future family trusts and wills etc.- Amber H.
Jonathan Huber and Benjamin Fox spent many exhausting hours on my case. They were thorough, meticulous, honest, and reassuring, and the result was… my case won! These men are like family to me now, I can call anytime!- Former Client