30 Years Experience Representing Clients Like You
After the grantor or person who creates the trust dies, disputes may arise in connection with the trust. Sometimes these disputes concern trust provisions. In other cases, the failure to name a particular beneficiary may spark a conflict. Trust contests are the process for resolving disputes involving trusts. If you are seeking to bring a trust contest to challenge the provisions of a trust or defend a trust from accusations of undue influence, contact New York City estate litigation attorney Jules Haas for a consultation.Trust Contests
Trust contests are formal objections to the validity of some aspect of a trust. The law regarding these procedures in New York is ever shifting with the circumstances dictating the standards that will be followed. Trust contests may be brought in Surrogate’s Court or the Supreme Court.
A party seeking to set aside a trust bears the burden of proof on all issues. This differs from will contests. The trustee does not bear the burden of establishing that the trust is valid, nor that the grantor was competent when the trust was made.
Sometimes grantors place no-contest clauses in trusts. This clause is put in place to forfeit the right of anybody who contests to receive anything. However, if the challenge to the trust’s validity is successful, the clause may be meaningless; the person contesting the validity of the trust would only lose benefits under the trust if unable to succeed in the trust contest.Contesting a Revocable Trust
Revocable trusts work the same way that wills do. The trust instrument has to specify that the trust is revocable or else it is deemed irrevocable. Revocable trusts can set the standard of competence required on the grantor’s part in order for a grantor to amend or revoke a trust instrument. A grantor can amend or revoke a revocable trust during his life, but the grantor’s distributees or a fiduciary of the grantor’s estate can only start a proceeding to invalidate a revocable trust after a grantor’s death. The six-year statute of limitations starts to run against a distributee or adversely affected person at the grantor’s death.
An experienced lawyer can explain the different grounds for contesting a revocable trust. Trust contests may be brought on grounds of lack of capacity, undue influence, undue execution, duress, forgery and fraud. Where, for example, a decedent created a trust while suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, he may have lacked the capacity to make the trust. In order to show lack of capacity, you would need to show that the person who made the trust did not understand the nature or extent of the property, how the trust was set up, or their relationships to relatives and others impacted by the trust. Another potential grounds for challenging a trust is undue influence. If a trust beneficiary was in a relationship of confidence with the person who made the trust and benefitted from that relationship, the court may infer that the beneficiary influenced the person who made the trust. The burden would shift to the beneficiary to show that there was no undue influence.Contesting an Irrevocable Trust
Irrevocable trusts can only be changed when the grantor and all parties with a beneficial interest in the trust have given consent. Contesting an irrevocable trust may be more challenging than contesting a revocable trust. In order to establish lack of capacity to make the trust, you would need to show that the grantor did not have rational judgment about the transaction; that is, the court will look at whether the grantor had capacity in making the irrevocable trust. The grantor of the trust must have had the mental capacity to understand what the trust was for and to act voluntarily without threats of force. Persons lack capacity if they are wholly and absolutely incompetent to understand and comprehend the nature of a transaction.Consult an Estate Litigation Attorney in New York City
If you are concerned about bringing or defending against a trust contest in New York City, you should talk to lawyer Jules Haas about your situation. Mr. Haas has represented clients in estate litigation for over three decades. He represents people in the Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan, along with Nassau, Suffolk, Kings, Westchester, and Richmond Counties. We offer a free case review as well as reasonable fee arrangements. Call us at (212) 355-2575 or contact us through our online form.