Most of us have heard of wills being contested, but many people are not aware that trusts can also be contested, often for similar reasons. A trust is a legal document and, as such, can only be contested in a lawsuit in state probate court by a person with legal standing to sue, i.e. a beneficiary of the trust. In Massachusetts, the individual contesting the trust has to file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations for such filing —one year after the trustor (aka settlor or grantor) has died.
It should be noted that some trusts contain provisions stating that if a beneficiary contests the trust that person will forfeit their portion of the available funds. In some cases, however, this provision may be overturned by the courts, even if the beneficiaries cannot all agree on the need for modification or termination of the trust.
Because of complex issues like these, when creating a trust you should always work with a highly skilled trust attorney to protect your assets and your family’s future. If you believe that a trust of which you are a beneficiary was improperly established or is being misinterpreted, that same experienced attorney can help you file a lawsuit to straighten things out. In Southeastern Massachusetts or Cape Cod, contact Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. for excellent legal advice and compassionate representation.
Why Trusts May Be Contested
While a revocable trust can be modified by the grantor at any time, once she or he dies, the trust is considered irrevocable. Nonetheless, trusts may be contested for any of the following reasons:
The Grantor’s True Wishes Are Not Reflected in the Trust
In some cases, a trust is contested by beneficiaries who believe that the settlor created the trust under the corruptive influence of someone else who stood to benefit. If it can be proven that the grantor signed the trust under duress, fraudulent interference (such as believing the trust was another document altogether, the court may terminate the trust entirely.
Another reason for contesting a trust is that the settlor lacked the mental capacity to form a trust at the time the document was prepared, either because of psychiatric illness, lack of mental acuity, or some type of dementia. As in the former case, if the court is convinced that these allegations are true, the trust may be modified or terminated.
The Trust Was Poorly Constructed
In some instances, the grantor may have mindfully created the trust, but may not have been given proper advice in its construction. It may not be achieving the settlor’s stated intentions, that is, the designated beneficiaries may not be receiving the expected benefits. If the trust is costing more to administer than the heirs receive, the court may agree that it should be terminated.
The Wording of the Trust Lacks Clarity
As with any legal document, ambiguous phrasing that allows for varying interpretations of the trust’s intent can make it impossible to use. The beneficiary may petition a Massachusetts probate court to modify or terminate the trust or to rule on what it determines to be the settlor’s intended meaning.
Contact Our Experienced Trust Attorneys for Wise Counsel
When it comes to constructing trusts and dealing with contesting trust agreements, our law team is well up to the challenge. We have successfully assisted many clients in crafting trusts tailored to very specific purposes (e.g. special needs children), and are adept at avoiding pitfalls that might make trusts unsound. More than that, we have helped clients contest trusts that were improperly created. Get in touch with us for dependable information and personalized service.