Trust Contests

Trust contests can be instrumental in ensuring the wishes of the settlor, or creator of the trust, are fulfilled. However, they require specific processes and procedures to be effective. It’s important to have the guidance of an experienced trust contest attorney to support you through the process, like our team here at RMO.

What are Trust Contests?

Trust contests occur when a beneficiary or interested party raises a dispute surrounding the validity or administration of a trust. Trust contests can arise over a variety of situations, including challenges to the administration of a trust, disputes around the reliability of the trust, and concerns directed to the actions of a trustee.

The complexities and nuances behind a trust contest often make it difficult for an interested party to navigate them on their own. If done properly, these contests can result in a more favorable outcome for beneficiaries and ensure alignment with the interests of the trustor or settlor. However, in some cases, if a trust contest is found invalid, it can result in penalties, like a lost stake in an inheritance.

It’s important to have the support of an experienced trust contest attorney to help you understand your options and navigate the next steps. Our team at RMO is here to offer guidance on the best path forward.

What Do Trust Contests Entail?

Trust contests can take a variety of forms depending on the circumstances, and a valid trust contest requires very specific processes and procedures. At RMO Lawyers, we provide support throughout all the following steps in a trust contest.

Grounds for Contesting a Trust

You may contest a trust under specific situations, such as lack of legal capacity, undue influence, document forgery, and more. These circumstances may prompt disputes seeking to invalidate or modify the trust.

Our lawyers can analyze your case to determine whether you have grounds to contest a trust or circumstances surrounding a trust.

Identifying Key Stakeholders

Trustees, beneficiaries, creditors, and other interested parties all have their own unique interest in a trust with potential claims to assets from the settlor. A trust contest can clarify which stakeholders have what claims to a trust and how to distribute assets in line with the trustor’s intentions.

Trust Contest Statute of Limitations & Procedural Requirements

There are several procedures to follow to ensure the validity of a trust contest. Under Cal. Probate Code Section 16061.7, for example, the time limit to contest the validity of a trust is 120 days, and the contest must be filed in court with evidence to support it. Additionally, the petitioning process may entail a mandatory 60-day waiting period if it’s aimed at compelling the disclosure of pertinent information, such as an accounting. Should no resolution be reached within this timeframe, a petition must be filed to request court intervention, either to mandate specific actions by the trustee or to seek their replacement.

Texas law doesn’t explicitly define a time limit for contesting trusts, so the Texas Civil Practice and Remedy Code’s default four-year period under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.051, likely governs. Different rules apply, however, for testamentary trusts. These types of trusts are found within the pages of a will and do not take effect until after the death of the trust maker. According to, Tex. Est. Code § 256.204(a), to contest these trusts, one must challenge the will itself. The deadline for contesting testamentary trusts is two years after a court probates the will containing the trust. In cases of fraud or forgery, a separate provision applies, allowing for a two-year window post-discovery of such acts to contest the trust. 

Many factors affect the procedural requirements around statutes of limitations of trust contests. It’s worth consulting with a qualified attorney to share your unique circumstances to determine the exact procedures and limitations for your case.

Our team of trust contest attorneys at RMO will help you navigate the process, determine if you meet the procedural requirements, and help you maximize your potential outcome.

Assessing Risks and Benefits

Contesting a trust comes with considerable risk. A trust contest has inherent possibilities of benefits and risks. For example, if a beneficiary contests a trust with a no-contest clause and loses, they risk forfeiting their inheritance. However, a successful contest with valid reasoning can result in a more favorable asset distribution or a reward of damages for wrongdoing. A trust contest attorney can evaluate your claims and help you weigh the benefits and risks of contesting a trust. Consult our lawyers at RMO to discuss the best path forward.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Options

A trust contest does not always have to entail courtroom litigation. Alternative dispute resolution methods can include out-of-court negotiations or mediation. RMO attorneys advocate for our client’s best interests to protect their legal rights in procedures such as mediation, providing legal advice, as well as all the diligence to ensure the case is ready to be settled with the best possible outcome

Common Trust Contest Scenarios

Trust contests can take various forms and arise due to a wide range of potential disputes. At RMO, we help clients navigate each of the following scenarios surrounding a trust contest.

Disputes Over Trust Validity

Disputes over trust validity can include concerns over the authenticity of trust documents, the capacity of the trust creator, undue influence on the creator, fraud, or lack of proper execution. RMO trust attorneys can help clients navigate these disputes and determine the validity of trust documents.

Challenges to Trust Interpretation

Disputes over the interpretation of a trust lead to some of the most common trust contests. RMO trust attorneys can offer support in gathering information about the appropriate interpretation of a trust, as well as promote clear and precise language in trust documents to ensure alignment with the wishes of the settlor.

Questions Regarding Trust Modification or Termination

Circumstances may arise where a beneficiary or interested party requests to have a trust modified or terminated. However, a change in a trust must occur only through appropriate processes and procedures. RMO Lawyers can provide answers to your questions and offer appropriate guidance for modifying a trust.

Competing Claims Among Beneficiaries

A trust can have several interested beneficiaries, leading to competing claims and disputes surrounding the appropriate distribution of assets. Our lawyers will work to ensure the asset distribution aligns with the decedent’s wishes and brings about the best possible outcome for all sides.

When Should I Contact An Attorney For A Trust Contest?

An attorney can be a valuable resource in a trust contest. They can assess grounds for a trust contest and provide guidance throughout the process to bring about the best possible result for all parties. Because a trust contest can be complex and require careful legal steps, you should consider contacting a trust contest attorney if you have any questions or concerns.

Some common scenarios for contacting a contested trust attorney include:

  • You are a trustee whose actions are contested
  • You are a beneficiary who disagrees with the asset distribution outlined in the trust
  • You have questions surrounding the interpretation of the estate planning documents
  • You have concerns surrounding a trust’s validity
  • You are unsure whether you have grounds for a contest

Ultimately, if you have any questions about a trust contest, schedule a consultation with our trust contest lawyers at RMO. If you think you have grounds for a trust contest or have a contest raised against you as a trustee, our attorneys at RMO can help.

Our Case Results

RMO has a proven track record of protecting people and defending legacies.

Summary Adjudication of Disinherited Beneficiary’s Trust Contest
Swiftly secured the dismissal of a trust contest of a disgruntled, disinherited trust beneficiary on a motion after strategically allowing the trust contest period to expire before serving a notice of proposed action to distribute trust assets to the trust’s remaining beneficiaries and nothing to the disinherited beneficiary.
Secured Family’s Business Legacy
Representing the successor family trustee, secured the generational family business for the decedent’s heirs by acquiring from a disgruntled beneficiary their interest in the family business on extremely favorable terms that will allow the family to continue operating the family business for future generations to come.
Defense of Financial Elder Abuse Claim Against Surviving Spouse Trustee
Successfully defended a surviving spouse trustee against financial elder abuse and other claims made by family members who said she had fraudulently transferred assets to herself from her late husband’s trust and estate.
Prevented Trustee Removal for Badly-Lawyered Trust Accounting
Staved off suspension, removal and surcharge for a trustee who had failed to properly or timely provide court-ordered trust accountings to trust beneficiaries and was staring down an imminent deadline, as well as suspension, removal and surcharge.
Trustee Removal for Fraud
Neutralized and secured removal of a hostile co-trustee who was attempting to bilk our client’s trust of millions of dollars through a series of fabricated claims.
Thieving Trustee Removed and Surcharged
Secured removal of a thieving co-trustee daughter whose malfeasance left her own mother destitute and unable to pay her bills, including recovery of the stolen assets, attorney fees and costs.
Trust Beneficiary Dispute Squashed & Partition Avoided
Swooped in on behalf of an institutional trustee after years of protracted litigation to secure a decision from the Los Angeles probate court to end a years-long dispute between feuding siblings over the distribution of their parents’ estate, avoiding distribution of assets in-kind, which would have only resulted in partition.
Sub-Trust Allocations Defended
Client’s mother survived step-dad and succeeded him as trustee of their family trust. After mom passed, step-dad’s children alleged she had improperly allocated trust assets to favor her survivor’s trust, which went to our client, over the marital trust, which went to step-dad’s children. Using historic appraisals and valuations, demonstrated the disputed allocation was reasonable, resolving the dispute.
Inept Trustee Removed & Client Appointed Successor Trustee to Save Estate
Non-responsive and ineffective trustee who had done little to nothing to administer the trust or protect trust assets from waste following decedent’s passing was removed and our client appointed as successor trustee by the probate court, avoiding further damage.
Racist Trustee Removed and Surcharged
Removed and obtained surcharge of a non-beneficiary family trustee who hurled racial epthets at our client, refused to account, and tried to sell the house intended for our sole trust beneficiary client out of spite, securing the home for our client and her family.
Previous slide
Next slide

Who Can Hire A Trust Contest Attorney?

Because of the complexities of contesting a trust, several parties may benefit from a qualified and experienced trust contest attorney. RMO has helped defend and carry out hundreds of trust contests to uphold the settlor’s intentions, and our lawyers support all the following parties.


Beneficiaries may contest a trust if they believe it was improperly administered, have concerns surrounding the conduct of a trustee, or dispute the terms outlined by the trust. We support clients in evaluating grounds for contest and building a case to protect their rights to a trust’s assets.


Heirs may raise concerns over a trust if they believe they were created under duress, fraud, or undue influence. Our lawyers can offer guidance in determining whether they have grounds to contest and in carrying out the process to bring about the best possible outcome.


In cases where a trust contest is directed at a trustee or their actions, such as in a petition for a trustee removal, they may seek representation to defend their position. Our contested trust lawyers at RMO can offer guidance on how to fulfill a fiduciary duty and help resolve potential disputes.


Several potential parties may raise contests over a trust, including business partners, spouses, former spouses, or other individuals with legal standing. RMO Lawyers can support each of these parties in raising a trust contest.


Be advised that the RMO Client Relations Team will reach out prior to your scheduled time, as our policy requires that we gather additional information concerning the parties to your case before we can confirm your consultation. In the event that we are unable to reach you, regrettably, we will need to cancel your requested consultation.

Communication Disclaimer

Please note that communications by you to RMO LLP or any of its lawyers through this website do not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. Do not send any privileged or confidential information to the firm through this website or otherwise until instructed in writing from us to do so. 

FAQs About Trust Contests

In California and Texas, the time frame for contesting the validity of a trust can vary depending on the circumstances and the specific laws in each state.

However, generally in California, the statute of limitations for contesting the validity of a trust is either 120 days from the date the notice of the trust administration is served to the beneficiaries or 60 days from the date of a notice of proposed action, whichever is later. If no notice is served to beneficiaries, the statute of limitations for contesting the trust’s validity is typically either 120 days from the date the trustee served notice of the trust to the beneficiary, or 60 days from the date the beneficiary receives actual knowledge of the trust’s existence and terms, whichever is later.

In Texas, the law doesn’t explicitly define a time limit for contesting trusts, so it is advisable to contact an attorney with your specific case details to determine if you are able to contest a trust.

To get guidance on contesting the validity of a trust in California or Texas, please schedule a free consultation with RMO.

Contesting a trust and contesting a will are similar in some ways, but they have significant differences, most notably in the estate planning document itself. A will is a document that outlines how a person’s assets and property should be distributed after their death, while a trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds assets on behalf of beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust. If you are interested in learning more about contesting a will, please visit our Will Contest Attorney Page (coming soon).

Yes. It’s possible to contest a trust even if you’re not named as a beneficiary. It typically requires having standing, valid legal grounds, and a legitimate interest in the trust or its outcome. At RMO, we often see heirs demonstrate that they were supposed to be beneficiaries but were unfairly excluded. 

Equally important as who can is why a trust can be contested. You would need valid legal grounds to contest the trust, such as allegations of fraud, undue influence, lack of capacity of the trust creator, or improper execution of the trust document.

Consulting with an experienced trust contest attorney will better determine if you are able to bring a contested claim.


Right of survivorship attorney or lawyer near me

The Guide to Family Trust Embezzlement and Stealing

Family trust embezzlement and stealing is more common than you might think. At RMO Lawyers, we investigate, prosecute and defend these claims every day…
Sibling stealing from estate what to do - RMO Lawyers and Trust Attorneys

The Penalty for Stealing from an Estate

When an abuser steals from an estate, the penalty can be as little as simply returning the stolen monies or assets to the trust or estate. However, the California Probate Code does…
What does a probate lawyer do

What does a probate lawyer do?

When a person passes away, their assets must be disbursed in a manner consistent with state laws and following the directions they put forth when they were alive…