Trust Law: When Can a Living Trust Be Disputed?

When creating a living trust, one must adhere to a specific process to ensure it is legally binding. Failing to draft a document per the trust law invalidates it. If you suspect a trustor did not set up a trust correctly, this can be grounds to dispute a trust, and consulting with a premier trust dispute attorney is crucial. Here are trust conditions to look for to strategize and position yourself for success:

The Type of Living Trust

One crucial aspect of determining a trust’s legitimacy through trust law is the type of trust. Essentially, there are two types of trusts: single and joint trusts.

Joint trusts are for married couples and can include property each spouse owns separately as joint property, while single trusts contain only property the trustor owns. This is critical to knowing your options and helping a trust dispute attorney strategize for the courtroom.

For example, if a single trust tries to incorporate joint property, this violates probate law and is grounds for dispute.

Trustees and Beneficiaries

Choosing a trustee is one of the most critical components of making a trust and has far-reaching implications.

With living trusts, a trustee can be the trustor or another person. When a trustor designates themselves the trustee, they often appoint a successor trustee as the person who will assume responsibility for managing assets should they pass away or become incapacitated.

If the trustor designated themselves the trustee but didn’t appoint a successor trustee before they passed, this complicates the process and could be an opportunity for trust disputes. Understanding who the beneficiaries are is also critical.

Thoroughly review how the instrument details asset distribution and any changes made as opportunities to contest a trust. For example, by trust law, the trustee can only make changes to a trust when they are of sound mind. If they weren’t, this is grounds for dispute.

Delineating trustees and beneficiaries is a significant asset in trust litigation. Fortunately, premier trust dispute attorneys can interpret the document, identify all key parties and asset distribution instructions, and determine the best legal recourse for a trust contest.

Drafting and Signing the Trust Document

There is no standardized Declaration of Trust document in California. According to trust law, trustors must ensure their instrument includes the right legal language and that they execute it properly for the state to recognize it as valid.

Trusts without the right language are especially vulnerable to dispute. Many trustors work with an estate planning attorney to draft and establish a document that accounts for their unique circumstances and has legally valid language.

Still, not every trustor works with a lawyer at this phase. If a trustor did not consult with an attorney, this can be a prime opportunity to contest a trust, and only a trust dispute lawyer has the expertise to determine if the document’s language is valid.

Validating a trust also requires signing it. In California, trustors do not need to have it notarized or have witnesses present when signing the document. However, many choose to sign their document in the presence of a notary public and witnesses for authentication.

Failure to have the document notarized can assist in trust disputes. Knowing whether or not the language is legally valid or if a trust was notarized is crucial to understanding your legal recourse and requires working with an expert trust dispute attorney.

Transferring Your Property to the Trust

Transferring property ownership is another crucial facet of trust law. A trust should list the trustee as the owner of its property, which requires considerable paperwork.

Even if the trustor is the trustee, they must change deeds and titles to name them as the owner in their capacity as trustee. Throughout their lifetime, they will accumulate more property and should be continuously transferring it.

If a trustor does not transfer property correctly or continuously, this is an opportunity to contest a trust. Ultimately, unpacking the documentation and language and conducting a trust accounting to determine validity requires a premier trust dispute lawyer.

Contact an Expert Trust Dispute Attorney if You Think a Living Trust Is Invalid

Whether you are contesting a trust or in the process of defending one, determining if a trustor created an instrument per trust law is imperative to understand what you are up against and whether or not there are opportunities to capitalize on. Still, this is impossible without the expertise of a trust litigation lawyer. Fortunately, at Gokal Law Group, we boast the leading expertise and an unwavering commitment to client success.

Whether you are defending a trust or disputing its validity, our passion is equipping clients with the representation they need to emerge from probate court with justice. Contact us to determine if you have grounds to contest a trust.

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