Trust disputes typically ensue due to a beneficiary or family member being unexpectedly disinherited from the estate. This is commonly done through undue influence or some means of deception by another party. Usually, this results in a Trust that contains entirely new provisions that don’t coincide with the Settlor’s known intentions or a distribution that overwhelmingly favors one party. In the event of disinheritance, legal options exist to mitigate the issue.
The biggest cause for concern in these situations is whether the new or amended Trust can be invalidated. Overall, yes. However, it is not an easy feat. The first obstacle is getting a copy of the Trust. When a Trust is altered, it is common for the wrongdoer to refuse to provide an earlier copy of the Trust under the pretense that they are only required to show the most current document. While heirs at law are entitled to see all estate documents, the caveat is that the wrongdoer cannot be forced to provide the documents. They can be requested, and demand letters from your attorney can be sent, but ultimately going to court is the only way to force their hand.
The next issue is the validity of the document. Documents that are signed by the Settlor are presumed to be valid and binding. This means that all changes that are within the signed document are assumed to be lawful and correct until proven otherwise. If there are suspicions that a Trust was amended unlawfully or that you were wrongfully disinherited, the Trust will need to be challenged. A lawsuit must be filed within the court requesting the court to issue an order to set aside the Trust. Crafting a cogent legal argument is imperative to winning a Trust contest. Mere belief that the Settlor would not have disinherited you will not suffice in court; tangible proof and evidence bolstering your claims of wrongdoing is of the utmost importance. This can be documents like medical records proving a lack of capacity, correspondence of any kind, or testimony from outside parties. Ultimately it needs to push the claims from conceivable to plausible. The burden of proof rests on the party bringing the lawsuit, and if the proof does not prove convincing in the court’s eyes by trial, the wrongdoer will win by default.
If you are in a similar circumstance and are undergoing an inheritance dispute, please contact The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys. Our firm offers free consultations and specializes in trust and will litigation. We are here to help you protect your inheritance and ensure your loved one’s wishes are fulfilled honestly.