What is Trust Litigation?

Generally, there are two types of trusts that are subject to disputes. First, are “inter vivos” or “living trusts” which are created by an individual during his or her lifetime. Second, are “testamentary trusts” which are trusts which are created or funded after an individual’s death. For purposes of this article about trust litigation, we are going to treat both types of trusts the same.

Trust litigation may attack the validity and legality of the trust. In this type of dispute, a person or an interested company attempt to have the entire trust agreement declared null and void. The legitimacy of a trust agreement can be attacked in a variety of manners. In some scenarios, heirs or other family members may argue that a trust was created by fraud or that the signature on the trust agreement is a forgery.

Interested parties might argue that the trust agreement was invalid because the grantor, or the creator of the trust, did not have legal capacity to sign the agreement. Legal capacity is often disputed when a creator of a trust agreement is ill or disabled when the trust agreement was signed. Similarly, “undue influence” is an argument used to attack a trust. Parties attacking the legality of the trust argue that the creator of the trust was inappropriately influenced by an individual to sign the trust.

Frequently, the beneficiaries of a trust do not want to attack the validity of the trust. However, disputes arise when the Trustee does not properly perform his or her duties. A trustee owes a heightened duty to the beneficiaries. Additionally, the trust agreement and state laws require the Trustee to create an annual account for the trust beneficiaries. The annual account must show the total assets of the trust, any income the trust received, and all payments that were made by the trust. The failure of the Trustee to comply with his or her obligations regularly leads to litigation. Claims for breach of fiduciary duty and for a formal accounting may be filed with a court by the trust beneficiaries.

Trust litigation is often complex, as the trust agreement is governed by very specific terms in the document and also by state and federal laws. It is also important to note that parties to a trust lawsuit generally do not have right to a jury. The disputes are brought before a judge who presides over the trial. The judge is also the decision-maker in the trial.

Questions About Trust Litigation

Trust litigation attorneys have a great deal of experience with helping individuals through the process of challenging the will of a loved one and ensuring that their loved one’s true wishes were carried out. Please contact us to talk about how we can help.