A trust is an estate planning tool designed to protect a family’s wealth for generations to come. When the Trustee or administrator of the trust is acting irresponsibly, it may be time to contest the trust. While this can be emotional, because often family members are involved, it is more common than you might think. At RMO Lawyers, we protect clients and beneficiaries like you, every day.
Trust litigation refers to the process associated with resolving a trust conflict. This conflict is generally between the Trustee and the beneficiaries of the trust. In some cases, the conflict can also exist between banks, family offices, and other organizations. Because many trust disputes occur between family members, family friends, and trusted acquaintances, there is often an emotional component to the trust contest that should be considered. And, to be clear, trust litigation is a civil matter, which need not result in criminal prosecution of the guilty party. At RMO, are experienced court litigators, although we do frequently resolve trust litigation matters via mediation, avoiding the need to go to court. Mediation typically saves court costs and offers a faster resolution.
At RMO, our partners and associates have extensive experience in trust, estate, and probate litigation. Our managing partner, Scott E. Rahn, has been named a “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” attorney by SuperLawyers. We protect beneficiaries and trustees, every day. If you have questions about the trust litigation process, mediation vs. court proceedings, or avoiding criminal prosecution and jail time for family members, please call us. We are happy to answer your questions, and the consultation is always free.
You may have been told that you have 120 days to contest a trust. While it is possible that you could have only 120 days from your loved one’s passing, the more specific answer is, as summarized above, the deadline is triggered by the date of mailing of the Notice of Irrevocabilty or Notice of Trust Administration sent pursuant to Probate Code section 16061.7. Probate Code 16061.7 gives an heir or beneficiary 120 days from the date notice is mailed to contest. If the notice does not contain a copy of the trust, then you will need to ask for a copy. If no copy is provided then you still have only the original 120 days to contest. If a copy is provided within the 120 days, then you have 60 days from the date the trust is mailed to you to contest. It is confusing and easy to get wrong. You would be best-served to retain counsel to help you examine your deadline as soon as you have an inkling that you may want to contest, even if it is before you get a copy of the trust.
Contesting a trust, disputing a trust, voiding a trust, invalidating a trust, etc. are all common terms for the legal process in which a beneficiary or heir seeks to change the inheritance, gift, bequest, or distribution they’re set to receive, per a trust agreement, after a loved one passes away. Trust contests often hinge the ability to prove that the person who created the trust lacked the capacity to do so (often because of a stroke, dementia, or other condition) or was subjected to undue influence by someone who benefited unnaturally from that influence. Here’s a quick overview.
In general, we recommend working with a trust litigation lawyer familiar with the county probate court in which the trust is being administered – i.e. where the trustee is. For example, if the decedent lived in Los Angeles and the trust is being administered by a trustee out of Los Angeles, we recommend working with a Los Angeles trust litigation attorney. Even if you live in San Diego.
Roshanne Katouzian is an associate in the Los Angeles office of RMO LLP. Roshanne focuses her practice on two areas of litigation: (1) representing beneficiaries, professional and corporate fiduciaries (administrators, executors, trustees, conservators, and guardians) in contested trust, estate and probate litigation; and (2) representing businesses, business owners, directors, executives, members, officers, partners and shareholders in business litigation and commercial disputes, and in internal and external investigations.