Trust litigation cases can be some of the most emotionally draining cases you’ll encounter in a court room; comparable to divorce and/or child custody cases. The reason trust litigation can be such an uncomfortable case to take on, especially without an attorney, is the fact that it most commonly involves a breach of trust amongst members of a family following the death of a loved one.
It’s not uncommon for individuals who consider filing a trust litigation lawsuit to back out in order to avoid the stress of the trial.Even if they were cheated out of assets that should have rightfully been left to them, it may feel uncomfortable contesting a will or trust. Worse yet, trust litigation lawsuits frequently occur right in the middle of the grieving period since a will and/or trust is enacted shortly after the passing of the individual and certain statute of limitations apply. For example, a petitioner who contests a trust may have as little as 120 days after service of a Trustee’s notification under Probate Code section 16061.7.
At Webb Law Group, we believe California trust and probate litigation law should be known and utilized in matters where one individual is unfairly contesting or has wrongfully altered the wishes of a loved one who has passed. After all, everyone who passes deserves the right to have their true wishes fulfilled in their trust or last will and testament. Here are somethings to know about trust litigation in California.
Arguments Against a Trust or Last Will and Testament
There are three main reasons why a trust or last will and testament may be contested in California. If you can argue any of these three reasons in a court of a law, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney.
The first reason to contest a California trust or last will and testament is the argument that the person who created the documents was not in his or her “right mind”, otherwise known as being of “sound mind”. Sound mind legally refers to having the capacity to think, reason and understand for oneself. Many cases of trust litigation involve an individual suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia or some other condition impacting the cognitive function of the brain prior to their passing.
The second reason involves the interpretation of the will or trust. Many individuals looking to save money on the process and forgo creating a proper living will and/or trust do not clearly explain the distribution of their assets. There may also be other problems with the document leading to contradictory interpretations. As the document may be interpreted more than oneway, often beneficiaries argue over who gets what. Sometimes individuals not named as beneficiaries may dispute the validity of the will and attempt to stake their own claim over the assets.
The third reason can be the worst of the three depending on circumstances. In the third case, trust litigation is brought about due to alleged unlawful and/or immoral acts carried out by a trustee or undue influencer. Examples can include anything from forgery of the documentation, to mental or physical coercion of the trustmaker prior to their passing in order to alter the trust or will outside of their true wishes. In some cases, trust litigation can even result in criminal charges against an individual for crimes like elder abuse. Again, this can be incredibly painful in the midst of still grieving the lost loved one. This is why it is so important to choose the right trustee when handling these affairs.
Trust Litigation in Real-Life Scenarios
So how might a trust litigation case look in a real-life scenario? Here are a few examples pulled from real cases we’ve handled in our office, changing only the names of those involved.
In one case, a particular trust involved four individuals;Tom, Dick, Harry and George. Tom, Dick and Harry benefitted from a 2015Amendment to the trust, of which George was not aware, that significantly increases the percentage of assets retained by the first three individuals and leaving George a much smaller share. George, having never been notified by his loved one of the changes, believes that one or more of the other three beneficiaries exercised undue influence on the trust maker in order to cut him out of the trust. Furthermore, George is arguing that depending on the interpretation of the 2015 Amendment, his share may not be impacted at all.
In another case, John and Matthew are two siblings who are beneficiaries of their family’s trust. John had always believed that assets would be distributed evenly upon the passing of the trustmaker. However, the trust actually was primarily distributed to Matthew. Upon scrutiny of the trust, there is evidence that Matthew mismanaged the trust and may have exercised undue influence by lying about John’s character to the trustmaker. John may submit such evidence in court to argue against the distribution of assets in the current interpretation of the trust.
Are You Seeking an Attorney in a Trust Litigation Case?
Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant in a case involving California trust litigation, Webb Law Group can assist you. Our law firm has years of experience dealing with cases involving California trust and probate litigation lawsuits. We are happy to review your case and advise you on how we can help and what to do next.
Webb Law Group is a reputable business and trust litigation law firm with experience in matters involving California Law. Having a reputable attorney by your side for these matters will help give you the best possible chance of a positive outcome in your case. If you feel you need legal representation, we are happy to review your legal needs and provide consultation and support where necessary.
For questions, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today at (559) 431-4888 (Fresno) or (619) 399-7700 (San Diego).