When someone adds a trust to their estate plan, they probably hope that their estate will be able to avoid probate court. By putting major assets into a trust, a testator can help ensure a seamless transfer of property without involving court.
However, despite the intention of a testator to avoid probate, it’s possible for beneficiaries of the trust or other family members to challenge the trust and possibly drag the entire estate into court. Why does that usually happen?
Family members question the validity of the trust itself
Much like with a will, the creation of a trust requires testamentary capacity. If someone has already begun to decline cognitively due to age or health issues, they may not be in a position to create or change their estate plan. People can also bring challenges when they suspect fraud played a role in the creation of the trust or undue influence by family members pushed the testator to set certain terms.
Beneficiaries question the intent or actions of the trustee
The trustee managing the distribution of assets and their maintenance can do a lot of damage to someone else’s legacy. Bad financial decisions could diminish the value of the estate. A violation of a trustee’s fiduciary duty for personal financial gain could reduce what the beneficiaries receive.
When family members suspect either incompetent management or a breach of fiduciary duty, they may challenge the trustee rather than the trust itself. Trust litigation is often complicated. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable assistance and guidance.