What are the Causes of a Trust Dispute?
A trust dispute is usually executed by heirs or supposed heirs who are not satisfied with the will of the deceased. Many people assume that a will is the final wishes for distribution of worldly possessions by a person of “sound mind and body." This is how it is intended but is not always so.
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A will or trust is subject to more than 21,700 sections of California code, so it is not a difficult decision whether or not to retain an attorney. Any will or trust over $100 thousand is required by law to be probated. This guarantees that the actual value of the estate is ascertained and that all creditors are paid prior to the dispersion to the heirs.
This may sound like it is detrimental to the inheritance of the heirs, but it actually protects them from creditors seeking judgments against them in the future. Probate is often challenged by parties who think that there is a legal issue with a will or trust and that is when they seek legal counsel and file a trust dispute.
The reasons for these disputes are many but the most common are the following:
- Beneficiary dissatisfaction: The beneficiary may claim undue influence by another party over decisions made in the will. This is where the sound mind part comes into question. Was the person of sound mind when they rewrote the will naming the primary heir or lawyer as their care-taker? Or were they influenced wrongly about the intended heir and convinced that the care-taker had their best interest at heart?
- Fiduciary mismanagement: A fiduciary is a person who has financial guidance responsibility. They could be a trustee, executor, administrator, guardian or conservator. If the motives of this position come into question, a trust dispute may be filed.
- Allegations of mismanagement or fraud: This is cause for dispute when funds are suddenly and rapidly depleted, perhaps just prior to a person’s death. A typical red flag scenario is when a will leaves a certain amount and it cannot be found, and then a broker suddenly has unexplained funds in his account.
- Seeking conservatorship: A relative, partner or close associate seeks control of a person’s assets because they claim the person to be mentally unfit to make rational judgment.
- Contesting of conservatorship: This occurs when a relative thinks that the potential conservator has ulterior motives, is unfit or unqualified. The contestant believes he should be the conservator due to better qualifications.
A trust dispute can arise for these reasons and others that are truly astounding. This true story illustrates that point: One person told another many years ago that they intended to leave them money but forgot to ask their name. This set in motion a protracted trust dispute.
If you are faced with a trust dispute or if you are planning to file one, the first step you should take is to retain an attorney who has experience in probate law, and who has more than his own interest at heart. It is unfortunate but true that many law firms in probate cases are primarily interested in their own personal gain. In an emotional time such as this, it is in your best interest to check attorney reviews on www.AVVO.com and get personal, reliable references before allowing any one to handle your finances – even an attorney.
Deckard Law handles trust disputes in San Jose, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Oakland, Fremont, Santa Cruz, Milpitas and Monterey.