You may have case even if the will or trust divides property differently than how you wish. For further discussion of possible claims you may want to read my other posts about estate and trust litigation. There are many possible ways you can litigate a dispute over the distribution of property. Obviously, the best outcome is if you can agree on a different distribution of assets than the will or trust provides. However, even you agree, you may need to petition the court to distribute the property differently than the will or trust.
There are just a few legally valid grounds for contesting a trust in California. The legally valid grounds for contesting a trust are similar to the grounds for contesting a will and include:
- Undue influence
- lack of capacity
- Trust provisions that do not satisfy the legal requirements for establishing a trust
For example, you could contest a trust if an heir influenced the grantor to decrease the share another beneficiary would receive or to disinherit a beneficiary based on lies. The untruths are a form of fraud when done in order to increase one’s share in the estate.
If the execution and signing of the document does not satisfy the legal requirements it is grounds for contesting the trust. Undue influence can occur when a caregiver or other person who spends considerable time with the grantor, especially during their final illness, encourages the grantor to change the terms of the trust in ways that increase the person’s share in the trust assets.
A notice as required by Probate Code 16051.7 must be sent to all the beneficiaries of the trust and heirs in order to begin the 120-day period. If the notice is not sent, the clock on the 120 days during which a challenge to the trust is allowed does not begin to toll. When the notice is not sent, it is possible for a trust to be challenged after a longer period of time passes.
The legal rights of trust beneficiaries include receiving a copy of the trust document. If a beneficiary requests a copy of the trust document during the 120-day period following the receipt of notice, the 120-day period may be extended to allow time for review of the trust document.