3 Common Trust Disputes

In the 2015-2016 fiscal year – the last period for which the complete data is available – California probate courts received 47,170 filings in connection to legal disputes related to various matters of estate law. Many cases heard by probate courts concerned trust disputes, which often arise due to a conflict between the beneficiaries of a trust and the trustee – that is, a person appointed to manage it. Since money, property, and other valuable assets are at stake in such legal battles, they tend to be time-consuming and costly for all the parties involved. Additionally, complicated family relations may quickly become a factor in trust litigation matters, making the issue even more complex and emotionally-charged.

In this article, we will analyze 3 common trust disputes that will help you make informed decisions should you ever find yourself in such a dispute.

  1. Questioning the Validity of a Trust

In order for a trust to be legally valid, certain basic requirements must be met at the time of its establishment. Some of these requirements concern the person who created a trust – called a trustor or grantor. In order to create a legally binding trust agreement, a trustor must:

  • have the mental capacity to understand the purpose and the scope of a trust
  • not be subjected to undue influence; that is, they must not be coerced or pressured to create a trust
  • not be affected by fraud

If it is proven before the court that some of these basic requirements have not actually been met, the court may invalidate it.

  1. Breach of Fiduciary Duty

A trustee has a duty to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries of a trust and to protect the assets and property held therein. If the trustee doesn’t fulfill this duty, the beneficiaries may claim breach of fiduciary duty and hold the trustee liable. Some of the situations in which a breach of fiduciary duty may be claimed are:

  • not fulfilling the directives of a trust
  • mismanagement or misappropriation of trust assets and property
  • self-dealing, or taking advantage of his or her position as a trustee to further his or her own interest
  • comingling of assets, or not keeping assets held in a trust separate from the personal assets of the trustee
  1. Modifications of a Trust

Both the trustee and the beneficiaries may attempt to introduce modifications to the original terms of a trust. There are many potential reasons for a trust to be modified, but in order to be able to do so, a person must file a petition with the court and demonstrate that such modifications are needed in order to ensure that the administration of the trust and the management of its assets continues according to the original intentions of the trustor. All beneficiaries must agree to the proposed modifications before the court approves the petition.

Contact Solan, Park & Robello For Advice in Trust Litigation Matters

Some trust disputes can quickly turn into long and complex legal battles. In order to ensure that your and your family interests are adequately represented and protected, you will need the assistance of legal professionals trained in the area of trust litigation. Solan, Park, & Robello have successfully represented many California families and individuals alike in trust-related legal disputes. Please contact us today to obtain trusted and comprehensive legal assistance you need to prevail in your trust litigation matter.

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Solan, Park & Robello

Solan, Park & Robello is a full-service probate and estate planning firm offering experienced counsel in a wide range of estate planning matters—from preparation to administration to litigation.

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