Will Contest & Trust Litigation Attorneys in Valencia and Oxnard
Capable and Skilled Legal Representation
It is always best to remain out of court and settle conflicts in the most
expeditious manner possible. When it comes to California Living Trusts,
sometimes it is hard for Trustees to stay out of court because beneficiaries
can be unnecessarily unreasonable and demanding (conversely, at times
Trustees are not acting appropriately and we help beneficiaries in these
unfortunate situations). Indeed, Trustees are commonly asked to do things
that don't make a lot of sense and/or might even be impossible. This creates
a stressful situation which requires finesse and experience to navigate.
We pride ourselves on skillfully resolving these potentially explosive
situations, saving our clients huge expense, stress and delays. Unfortunately
though, despite our best efforts, at times staying out of court is just
not possible, especially when dealing with bad actors, whether such is
a result of actions of Trustees or provisions stemming from a Revocable
Living Trust or when no planning (or bad planning) was done with a Last
Will & Testament.
Trust Litigation Services
It is disappointing, but often true, that a chosen trusted Trustee is uncooperative,
fails to communicate or act, or worse, just straight up breaches the terms
of the Trust and/or even engages in theft. As a beneficiary of a Trust,
you are entitled to an accounting of trust assets and if necessary, you
can force the Trustee to comply with the terms of the Trust. If a Trustee
of a Trust which involves you is breaching their fiduciary duty, we can
help you to remove that Trustee as well as force them to reimburse the
trust for their misdeeds – and, if necessary to make you whole,
persuade a judge to surcharge their part of the inheritance in accordance
with the amount lost or mismanaged.
Where there is fraud, undue influence, duress, financial elder abuse and
the like present in the procurement of a California Living Trust in the
first place, there are remedies available to have that Living Trust thrown
out. These types of legal proceedings are similar to Will Contests as
We represent clients in Oxnard, Santa Clarita, and Valencia and provide
our services in English and Russian. Explore your legal options with us
(661) 306-2500 or
contacting us online.
Who Can Contest the Validity of a Will or Trust in California?
Not just anyone can contest the validity of a Will or Trust in California.
You must have “standing,” which means that you stand to benefit
from the outcome of your objection.
In practice, this generally means that you must either be an intestate
beneficiary or have been named in a previous draft of the deceased’s
Will or Trust.
An intestate beneficiary refers to any family member that stands to inherit
assets should no valid Will or Trust exist or be recognized. In California,
intestate beneficiaries include some combination of surviving spouses,
children, parents, or siblings. To successfully contest a Will or Trust,
a potential beneficiary should determine if they would receive any amount
of property should the existing Will or Trust be thrown out. If they do
stand to inherit something, they have the ability to file an objection.
Our Will Contest and Trust Litigation attorneys in Valencia and Oxnard
can help determine whether you have standing and explore valid grounds
for moving forward.
Grounds for Filing an Objection to a Will or Trust in California
Many seek to contest a Will or Trust when they believe that they have been
unfairly excluded from an expected inheritance. But disapproving the decisions
of the Testator of a Will or Settlor of a Trust does not provide sufficient
reason, in and of itself, to object to a Will or Trust, even if you are
convinced it is patently unfair. Such arguments will simply not hold up in court.
The state of California recognizes the following grounds for contesting a will:
Lack of mental capacity. The state requires that Testators/Settlors be of sound mind when they
write, sign, and formalize their Will and/or Trust. This means they must
be capable of making their own decisions, are aware of their actions,
and are held responsible for their decisions and actions. You may be able
to successfully contest a Will or Trust if you have some knowledge and
evidence that the Testator/Settlor was not mentally competent around the
time that the most recent draft of their testamentary documents were formalized.
Undue influence and duress. Testators/Settlors must make their own decisions when writing and formalizing
their Will and/or Trust. Victims of elder abuse can often be inappropriately
compelled to include their abuser in their testamentary documents. Any
provision that is proven to have been made under duress or any other form
of undue influence is not enforceable.
Fraud. In some cases, a document purported to be the Testator’s Last Will
& Testament or Settlor's Living Trust may not have actually been written
or executed by them. Fraudulent documents or documents with fraudulent
signatures can be successfully challenged and thrown out, especially if
actual testamentary documents can be located. Fraud also extends to situations
where a Testator or Settlor is deliberately misled and consequently alters
the contents of their Will and/or Trust. For example, if the Testator
is told lies about a family member, resulting in their removing that family
member from the Will or Trust, the document could be contested on the
grounds that it’s contents were written as a result of fraudulent activity.
Error. People are prone to making mistakes, especially as they grow older. Typos
and errors can have material impacts on one or more provisions of a Will
or Trust and can be more common in handwritten Wills, which the state
of California might recognize if certain conditions are met. If you can
provide evidence of what the testator actually intended for an element
affected by a mistake, you may be able to challenge the current draft
of the Will or Trust on these grounds.
Revocation. Wills and Trusts can be revoked by the testator or an authorized representative
through one of several methods. In some cases, a copy of a revoked Will
or Trust may be mistakenly or deliberately misrepresented as the testator’s
final intentions. If you have evidence that the currently recognized draft
was at some point revoked, you can challenge the legitimacy of the Will or Trust.
Failure to properly formalize. A Testator or Settlor cannot simply write down their final wishes on
a piece of paper. A Last Will & Testament and/or Trust must be properly
formalized and signed in the presence of witnesses and/or notaries. These
mechanisms are designed to prevent fraud and ensure that the Testator/Settlor
was of sound mind at the time of the document’s signing. When the
appropriate procedures are not followed, the legal enforceability of a
Will or Trust can usually be challenged.