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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Difficulty with Contesting a Trust in California

Trusts are created with the intent to hold certain things to specific people or entities for a period of time. In the state of California, trusts are initially presumed to be valid, but sometimes people may challenge or contest them for various reasons. In order to contest a trust, it requires a sufficient burden of proof.

In other words, in order to overturn a trust (or any written, signed, legal document), you must provide admissible evidence in support of a valid legal ground for overturning it. Legal grounds for overturning a legal document include:

  • Lack of capacity
  • Undue influence
  • Fraud

The other side doesn’t have a burden of proof; it must only be able to diminish yours since it’s assumed correct by default.

Admissible Evidence

Also, admissible evidence varies from facts. While you may have knowledge of a fact that would paint your side in a good light, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the fact is admissible evidence, able to be presented in a court of law if your trust contest goes to trial. The California Evidence Code lays out the type of evidence that is to be considered admissible and you must be sure that your evidence adheres to that.

Finding evidence that is admissible in a court of law can be harder than it sounds. This is because when undue influence occurs, for example, it’s rare that these actions would be taken around anyone else but the person acting in bad faith, whom will certainly not jump to testify against themselves. Therefore circumstantial evidence would prove extremely helpful, although it may be difficult to come by.

The Odds Are Against You

Therefore, it’s not all that surprising that in California less than one-third of contested trust cases succeed at trial; most will fail. This is because the odds are stacked against you from the beginning.

While it may seem as though you don’t have a prayer when it comes to contesting a bad trust, this isn’t the case. You may be able to reach an acceptable statement or be successful at trial. However, it will undoubtedly require more work than you may realize.

For this reason – and many more – it’s in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experience Trust attorney who can walk you through each step of the process and help you to decipher which evidence is admissible – and which is not.

Biddle Law Can Help Those Looking to Draft – or Contest – a Trust

At Biddle Law, we care about your future together and want to assist in protecting it. This is why will work in the very best interest of our clients to seek out the best outcome for them and their families. Whether you’re in need of a trust or another estate planning document, or wish to contest one, we can help. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!


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