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Contesting Trusts

Contesting Trusts

The California Probate Code also governs the administration of trusts in California where the trust itself is subject to the state laws. You have to read the Trust itself to see if the state laws apply – check toward the last pages of the trust and see if you find a provision similar to this:

California Law to Apply

This trust has been executed and will be administered in the State of California, and its validity, construction, interpretation, and administration shall be governed by the laws of the State.  The foregoing notwithstanding, the Trustee may at any time, and from time to time, remove the place of administration of the Trust Estate or any part or all of the property belonging to the Trust Estate to any place in the United States, or in the world, and upon such removal the administration of the Trust Estate shall be governed by the laws of the new jurisdiction.  This Trust shall not be construed so as to convert real property located in a state other than that of the settlor’s residence to personal property.  If any provision of this Trust shall be invalid or unenforceable, the remaining provisions thereof shall continue to be fully effective.

So if you have determined that a trust is to be governed under the laws of California, then the administration of the trust is largely governed by the California Probate Code. California Probate Code Section 17200 et seq. is a good place to start to review how trusts are to be administered and what the laws are.

Trusts can be contested for a variety of reasons. They can be contested by its terms – meaning that something that was written in the trust itself is suspect or should be challenged. There are limited time periods that may apply to a contest of the terms of a trust. California Probate Code Section 16061.7 et seq. provides guidance on the timing to contest where a proper notice was provided to the trust beneficiaries or other persons entitled to notice. If you receive a copy of a trust in the mail or by other means involving someone who just died and you have questions or concerns about the trust itself, please see an attorney immediately to see if you have grounds or reasons to contest the terms of the trust. Common grounds to contest a trust include fraud, undue influence, lack of capacity or other similar reasons.

Another reason to contest the trust is not the terms of the trust itself, but the administration of the trust by the successor trustee. This type of contest would be considered a breach of fiduciary duty by the acting trustee to the trust beneficiaries. There are many grounds and many types of fiduciary breaches – if you are a beneficiary of a trust and suspect abuse or lack of proper administration, please see an attorney immediately to see what your rights may be in connection with the trust.

Trust contests are largely litigated in the probate courts in California. Each county typically has one main probate court with multiple courtrooms in that court house to handle trust contests and related disputes. Trust contests tend to require experience and knowledge by the litigation attorneys handling the matter of basic estate planning and trust concepts to effectively handle these type of legal matters. If you have a trust matter where you want sage advice in the administration of the trust or if you are the beneficiary of a trust and you don’t like how it is being handled, please contact TLD Law for a consultation by one of our trust attorneys who also handle litigation: Jennifer Lumsdaine, Monica Goel and Jennifer Sawday are available to assist.

The author of this post is Jennifer Sawday. If you wish to contact Jennifer directly, please email her at jsawday@tldlaw.com.

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