How Hard Is It to Contest a Trust?

Contesting a trust can be financially challenging, time consuming and emotionally taxing. Lawsuits are expensive. Gathering the information you need to support your case. Filing your contest petition with the court.  Taking discovery.  Participating in mediation or a settlement conference.  Taking your case to trial with experts to help prove your case.  All these things cost money.

Trust contests take time.  The time it takes to go from your first consult to trial can easily take a couple years, and that’s without Covid delays that all courts are experiencing now.

And the emotional toll, especially as costs add up and time seems to drag on, can really wear on you.  Starting with digging into some really raw emotional family issues, moving into having to pursue someone for having done something awful to someone you care about (and that person most often being another family member), and wading through and waiting for judicial processes to unfold all add up.  This is why we often say to would-be clients that you are more likely to run out of emotional capital before you run out of financial capital.  That is the reality of these cases.

It is for these reasons that we execute our cases using time and battle-tested strategies focused on getting clients better results sooner for less legal spend, so they can move on with their lives.

Have questions? Schedule a free consultation right now at

How Successful Is Contesting a Trust?

To successfully contest a trust, you will need to win your contest case in a court of law. But not every trust contest can (or should be) won. Consulting with an experienced trust litigation attorney early to understand the relative strengths and weaknesses (every case has them) of your case will allow you to make better, more well-informed decisions early so that you can decide what you’re ready to invest and how, so that your trust contest case produces a result that is meaningful to you, often without having to go to trial and sometimes without even having to file a contest petition in court.   

On What Grounds Can a Trust Be Contested?

The most common grounds for contesting a trust include: lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, forgery, revocation and mistake.  

Incapacity or lack of capacity deals with whether your loved one lacked the legal capacity to execute a new or amended trust document. Due to medical issues like dementia, stroke, etc., individuals may not have the ability to understand the consequences of the estate planning documents presented to them.

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts control over a loved one to such a degree (“undue”) that the influencer’s desire supplant your loved one’s.  Often the influencer will use threats or manipulation to make the decedent feel like they have no choice but to do what they are being asked or told. 

Fraud happens when someone lies to the decedent.  For example, if one child falsely tells mom or dad that their brother or sister has substance abuse issues and mom or dad disinherit that child, that is a basis for a fraud claim.  Or, if someone puts a trust or will in front of a decedent but tells them it’s something else, like a birthday card, a case for fraud will stand.

Finally, you also can contest a trust on grounds such as forgery, revocation, or mistake. A forged or properly revoked trust is never valid. Likewise, if your loved one was mistaken about the circumstances that led to the creation of the trust or trust amendment, you can seek to have it invalidated.

Is It Expensive To Contest a Trust?

It can be very expensive to contest a trust.  A thorough analysis of your claims, the estate assets and values, potential defenses, etc. must be undertaken with the assistance of an experienced trust litigation attorney before proceeding. An experienced trust litigation lawyer can help identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case, explain the costs and time commitment involved with litigating, and help you make a well-informed decision whether and how to proceed. An experienced probate litigation attorney also likely will be able to present alternatives that might be available to help you get a result more quickly and for less legal spend. 

Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.
Call (424) 320-9444 or email [email protected]

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About RMO, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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