Practical. Principled. Passionate.

Do you have grounds to challenge the validity of a trust?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Trust Litigation

Trusts are legal tools designed to manage a person’s assets during their lifetime and distribute them according to their wishes after their death. However, there may be scenarios where the validity of a trust can be challenged in court.

If you believe a trust is flawed or unfair, state law provides avenues to contest it under certain circumstances. It can help to explore the main instances where you might have grounds to challenge a trust in California.

Lack of mental capacity

A fundamental requirement for creating a valid trust is that the person establishing it (the grantor) has the mental capacity to do so. This means they must comprehend the nature and effect of their actions. If you have evidence that the grantor lacked the mental capacity to create the trust logically, you may be able to challenge it.

To prove a lack of mental capacity, you will need documentation from a doctor showing the grantor had a cognitive impairment at the time the trust was created. It would help if you also had statements from individuals who observed the grantor’s mental state around the time the trust was signed. If possible, it can help to provide evidence that the grantor made other decisions during that period that were illogical or out of character.

Undue influence

Undue influence can happen when someone pressures or manipulates the grantor into creating a trust that benefits them unfairly. This pressure can be emotional, physical or financial. It’s important to note that simply influencing the grantor’s decision isn’t enough. The pressure must be undue, meaning it overcomes the grantor’s free will. To prove undue influence, you might need to show that a close relationship existed between the grantor and the person influencing them, such as a caregiver or trusted advisor.

Suspicious timing can be used to further corroborate undue influence. For instance, if the trust was created shortly before the grantor’s mental decline or death, this may be used as evidence. Another piece of supporting evidence would be if the trust benefits the influencer significantly more than other beneficiaries without a clear explanation.

Challenging a trust can be a complex legal process. Therefore, if you believe you have grounds to contest a trust in California, consulting with an experienced legal team is crucial. They can guide you on the specifics of your situation and the legal steps involved in contesting the trust.