What happens after someone contests a trust?

As you review your loved one’s estate plan, you may have concerns about its provisions. They may have set up a trust that they thought would protect their assets. Yet, the trust document may exclude certain property or contain details that seem at odds with their intentions. In these cases – and others – you may consider contesting your loved one’s trust. But you will likely have concerns about whether you can – and what will happen as a result.

Contesting a trust

If you want to contest your loved one’s trust, California’s statute of limitations gives you 120 days to do so after you receive notification. So long as you make it within this window, your challenge will receive a hearing in a state probate court. If the court finds your challenge valid and your loved one had no other trust document, it will disburse based on California’s intestate succession laws. If they had a prior trust document, it will disburse based on its provisions instead. But if you lose your challenge, you may not receive your share of the trust’s assets.

Your challenge may be valid if:

  • The settlor lacked the capacity to create their trust
  • The settlor created the trust under undue influence from another person
  • The settlor created multiple estate plans
  • The settlor did not validate their trust properly

Filing a petition

If your loved one left assets out of their trust, you will have to file a petition – rather than make a challenge – to include it. This petition, called a Heggstad petition, accounts for their intent to transfer property into the trust. To file one, your loved one must have had a schedule detailing these plans. If they did not, you or other beneficiaries will need to provide valid documentation that outlines their intent. So long as either exists, you may want to file a Heggstad petition if:

  • The settlor’s health prevented them from transferring the property
  • The settlor died during the transfer process
  • The settlor forgot to transfer the property
  • The settlor’s property did not transfer correctly

If you have concerns about your loved one’s trust, you do not need to work through them alone. An attorney with estate planning experience can help clarify the steps you must take.