A trust is an essential legal instrument intended to preserve one’s estate and ensure it is managed per their wishes when one can no longer manage it themselves. However, these instruments are not always legally viable. Sundry situations can invalidate a trust, and understanding whether or not you are dealing with one requires the counsel of an unparalleled trust lawyer. Here is our guide to what renders a trust invalid:
Basic Legal Requirements of a Trust
Under California probate law, a trust must satisfy specific requirements to be considered a legally valid instrument. Requirements a document must meet include:
- Establishing intent
- A trustor’s mental capacity
- Lawful provisions
- Making the trustee the lawful owner of trust assets
- Determining if beneficiaries have a right to receive assets
- Intent, distribution, and management of assets laid out in writing
- An end date
Additionally, trusts must be written or typed and signed by the trustor, and two witnesses must be present at the signing. Furthermore, these witnesses cannot be beneficiaries. Failure to adhere to any of these requirements may invalidate a trust.
What Can Invalidate a Trust?
Innumerable conditions can render a trust invalid, such as forgery, fraud, the existence of multiple wills and trusts, and more. Understanding if a trust is valid requires consulting with a trust lawyer. Here are common conditions that invalidate a trust instrument:
Legal Formalities Not Followed When Establishing the Trust Instrument
Because a trust is basically a contract, the person who creates a trust must meet specific state requirements for contract creation.
First, the trustor must intend to create a trust relationship, meaning they intend to distribute property for another’s use or benefit. A settlor must also transfer the actual legal property into the trust, which is an entirely separate legal process.
Second, the document must also define the trust property and establish at least one beneficiary. Still, the requirements are nuanced and complex. Understanding whether or not a settlor satisfied state-specific requirements necessitates the counsel of a premier trust lawyer.
The Trustor Was Not Mentally Competent When Creating or Modifying the Trust
If the person who created the trust lacked the mental capacity to execute the instrument, this invalidates a trust.
The creator must be the state’s majority age (typically 18) and capable of understanding what they are doing with their property and estate. A trustor having a severely diminished mental capacity when drafting the document is a significant red flag.
The Trust Was Created or Modified Under Undue Influence, Duress, or Coercion
Another common condition that invalidates a trust is when the settlor created or modified the instrument under undue influence, duress, or coercion.
Courts can refuse to enforce a trust if there is evidence someone exerted undue influence on the trustor to create or modify the instrument. Proof of undue influence typically involves proving:
- A confidential relationship between the trustor and the influencing party.
- Duress from an outside party caused a weakened mental state in the trustor.
- The influencing party reaped the rewards and received a larger share of the trust than they otherwise would have.
Proving all three elements requires an extensive understanding of probate courts and investigation to collect and present admissible evidence to substantiate your position, which only a trust lawyer has the expertise to do.
Contact a Premier Trust Lawyer to Contest a Trust Today
Trust instruments are critical documents in protecting and preserving an estate and ensuring it is managed and administered per the settlor’s wishes after they pass. However, sometimes parties manipulate this process to benefit themselves, jeopardizing the integrity of a trustor’s estate. If you suspect a trust is invalid, contacting an expert trust attorney is imperative. Fortunately, at Gokal Law Group, we boast unequaled expertise and an unrelenting dedication to clients.