Chances are good that even if you have never been involved in a Will contest, you have a general idea of what one is. What happens though if the estate planning component is a trust instead of a Last Will and Testament? Many people do not realize that a trust can be contested in much the same way that a will is contested.
For most people, their will is the cornerstone of their estate plan. Although primarily by the very wealthy, trusts are now fairly common additions to any estate plan. The trust is essentially a legal agreement whereby you appoint a trustee to oversee the administration of the trust, name at least one person as a beneficiary who will receive the benefits of the trust, and then transfer funds into the trust to fund it. While there are many subcategories of trusts, the main two categories are testamentary versus living and revocable versus in your revocable. A testamentary trust, by its very nature, is irrevocable because you will no longer be around to make changes or revoke the trust since the trust only takes effect when you die.
A trust contest must allege a reason that would legally invalidate the trust. Simple being unhappy with the terms of the trust is not sufficient. Alleging that the trust was executed under duress, was a product of fraud, or that the grantor did not have the mental capacity to execute the trust are all legitimate reasons to contest a trust.
Although a true trust contest is possible, what happens more often is that a beneficiary petitions a court to modify, or even terminate, an irrevocable trust. Though an irrevocable trust cannot be changed or revoked by the grantor, most states allow a judge to modify or terminate an irrevocable trust under certain circumstances. For example, if terms in the trust are ambiguous a judge could clarify the terms. Likewise, if the terms of the trust are illegal if executed, or impossible to execute, a judge could modify the trust. Furthermore, if the assets held by the trust are minimal and a beneficiary files a petition asking the court to terminate the trust and disburse the assets the judge may do so for efficiency.
If you are a beneficiary of a trust and are concerned that the trust is not a legally valid trust, or that there is a reason to modify or terminate the trust, consult with your estate planning attorney in St Louis MO to determine what legal options you have.
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