Can a Non-Beneficiary Contest a Trust in California?

If you are not named as a beneficiary of a trust, it may seem like you have no right to challenge it. In many situations, this protects both beneficiaries and the trust. But sometimes, non-beneficiaries have a legitimate claim to challenge a trust. In these situations, it’s normal to wonder, Can a non-beneficiary contest a trust? Possibly, but whether you have the legal right to do so depends on several factors. 

At Gokal Law Group, we have helped non-beneficiaries contest trusts when they’ve been wrongfully excluded and successfully recovered millions of dollars in settlements and trial verdicts for clients. Here’s when non-beneficiaries have the right to challenge trusts. 

Can a Non-Beneficiary Contest a Trust?

In short, yes, a non-beneficiary may have the right to contest a trust. Generally, non-beneficiaries can contest a trust when they are an heir or have a financial interest in the estate. But countless other situations could give a non-beneficiary this right.

The 2020 ruling in Barefoot v. Jennings set a new precedent for when individuals who are not named beneficiaries can contest a trust. In this case, the settlor (the person who created the trust) amended her trust before she passed away, which disinherited one of her daughters. The daughter brought an action to challenge the validity of the amendment that disinherited her, but the trial court found she did not have standing to bring the action because she was not a current, named beneficiary of the trust. 

The California Supreme Court, however, reversed the ruling and held that those who have been disinherited or otherwise excluded from a trust have the power to file a trust contest if they claim they are or should be beneficiaries under the trust

Related Article: What Are the Chances of Successfully Contesting a Trust in California?

When Can a Non-Beneficiary Contest a Trust?

Essentially, individuals who were wrongfully disinherited or excluded from the trust have the right to challenge it. Common ways that a trust may be compromised that would give beneficiaries a right to contest it include:

Maybe the trustee amended the document and forged the signature of the person who created it, or perhaps a beneficiary exploited them in a state of cognitive decline due to their old age or other disability and put pressure on them to remove a beneficiary for a larger share of the estate. Both situations could be grounds to contest a trust for non-beneficiaries. 

Essentially, if you have valid legal grounds to challenge a trust, you can contest it, and working with a skilled attorney is crucial to win a trust contest. 

[Barefoot v. Jennings] has provided an important avenue for those wrongfully excluded from a trust—whether due to someone fabricating a document or manipulating the person who created it—to challenge the trust and defend their rightful inheritance. With a seasoned trust litigation attorney at your side, if you have reason to believe you were wrongfully disinherited or otherwise excluded from a trust, you can ensure that you receive the inheritance you deserve.”

Andrew Micaraset, Associate, Gokal Law Group

Related Article: When Do You Need a Trust Litigation Attorney in Orange County?

Do You Need an Advantage in Trust Litigation? Contact Us for Premier Representation to Defend Your Inheritance!

So, can a non-beneficiary contest a trust? If you are an heir and can prove that another individual used fraud, undue influence, or duress, or that they took advantage of mental incapacity in the trust creator to have you disinherited, then you may be able to contest the trust. If you are in this situation, working with an attorney is imperative to receive the inheritance you deserve. 

Visit our Contact Page to schedule a free consultation and defend your inheritance.


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