Trust Litigation Attorney in San Diego, California
Losing a family member or a loved one is emotionally stressful, especially when there are disputes within the family over the inheritance of assets.
Many people feel helpless when a parent dies and learn they have been disinherited or removed from the trust. In some cases, you may be named a trust beneficiary, but a trustee is mishandling the assets and refusing to give your rightful inheritance.
If your family is being torn apart by disputes over trusts or wills, it is highly recommended to seek legal advice from a credible San Diego trust and probate litigation lawyer.
Attorney Vincent Casiano has extensive experience handling trust and probate issues. He works on cases involving trust contests, will contests, complicated trust accountings, and allegations of breach of fiduciary duty.
Why Do You Need a Trust Litigation Lawyer in San Diego?
Nobody wants to fight over physical and financial assets. Unfortunately, large inheritances and complicated trusts can cause family disputes due to one of the following reasons:
- Outdated or poorly written estate plans
- Conflicting opinions regarding the validity of a trust
If you encounter any issues during the trust administration process, San Diego trust litigation attorney Vincent Casiano can help you understand your rights, investigate the circumstances of the case, and examine the details of the trust.
What is a Trust?
A trust is a legally binding agreement that involves a trustor, a trustee, and the beneficiaries. It allows a third party or “trustee” to hold the trustor’s assets so that they may eventually be distributed among the chosen beneficiaries and heirs.
The trustee has a fiduciary obligation to manage these assets wisely and distribute them according to the trustor’s wishes.
Trusts are often used in estate planning for the following reasons:
- Reduce the amount of estate tax your beneficiaries must pay
- Avoid the time and expense of probate proceedings
- Govern the distribution of assets to beneficiaries
- Help families avoid the supervision, delay, and costs associated with the probate of a will
A trust can be classified into either a revocable (living trust) or irrevocable trust.
The grantor controls the assets in a revocable trust and can change the trust anytime.
On the other hand, an irrevocable trust can’t be changed once created. A top-ranking trust litigation lawyer in San Diego can help determine the best type of trust that can fulfill your estate planning goals.
What is Trust Litigation?
Trust litigation involves a dispute between trustees or beneficiaries over assets. One party (most often the beneficiary) files a petition or legal claim to resolve a trust dispute which initiates probate court proceedings.
Trust disputes can arise from many situations, such as:
- Breaches of fiduciary duties
- There is evidence of inappropriate acts done by the trustee
- Ownership of property may not be apparent
- When the trust might be ambiguous.
Any act or omission by a trustee that violates the terms of the trust or violates the trustee’s fiduciary duties may result in litigation.
If there has been mismanagement of the trust assets by the trustee, you can petition to have the trustee removed.
Trust contests are often filed when an heir or a named beneficiary has concerns about how assets are distributed in a trust.
A skilled San Diego trust litigation attorney can help you determine the best strategies for settling trust disputes.
How to Contest a Trust in California?
A petitioner must have a legitimate reason to contest a trust in California. You cannot simply challenge a trust because the terms are not favorable to you.
A seasoned trust litigation lawyer in San Diego can help you examine the facts of your case and advise whether your case is worth pursuing, both emotionally and financially.
There are four common legal causes to contest a trust. These include the following:
You may contest a trust if it is not the product of the creator’s will. Fraud refers to deceiving, tricking, coercing, or lying to the grantor to cause them to establish a trust that favors the person who has committed the misdeeds. It is a breach of fiduciary duty and can be discovered via forensics. In addition, forgery is also a legally accepted ground for contesting a trust.
Some people try to take advantage of the vulnerability of an elderly or incapacitated family member or loved one. Undue influence occurs when someone takes advantage of an individual to obtain all or a portion of their estate correctly.
To win a trust contest, a beneficiary will have to prove that someone has taken advantage of the settlor’s vulnerability by inducing them to change their estate plan.
Incapacity refers to the physical or mental inability to do something or manage one’s affairs. The person who created the trust document may have been incapacitated physically or mentally. If someone has dementia or a substance abuse issue, you can question the person’s capacity to create a legally binding document.
Violation of State Law
In California, there are state laws that you must follow when you create a trust. If there is something unlawful about how the document has been drafted or executed, you may be able to contest it successfully. Working with a knowledgeable San Diego trust litigation attorney is essential to uncover state law violations.
Can You Amend a Trust in California?
One benefit of establishing a revocable trust is that a grantor retains the right to change or revoke a trust. An irrevocable trust may also be amended in certain circumstances, as long as both the grantor and beneficiaries agree to amend it.
Some common reasons for a trust amendment are:
- Adding a beneficiary. A grantor may add a beneficiary after marriage, the birth of a child, or other circumstances.
- Excluding a beneficiary. A grantor may remove a beneficiary from the trust, leading to trust litigation.
- Changing the distribution of trust assets. A grantor may change or update which beneficiary recessive which assets.
- Adding, revoking, or altering the trust provisions. Any modifications to the trust parameters require an amendment. For instance, the grantor may want to remove age restrictions that limit beneficiaries’ access to assets.
Can You Contest a Trust Amendment?
In some circumstances, a grantor may be influenced or coerced to make amendments in the trust that don’t reflect their true wishes. You may also be unaware of the modifications that your loved one made in the trust until after their death. Therefore, it may be necessary for you to contest a trust amendment.
Some of the most common ground in contesting a trust amendment include:
- Incompetence. In certain situations, you may argue that the grantor was not of sound mind during the trust amendment. You might use this argument if the grantor was ill or elderly.
- Undue influence. A caregiver or another individual may pressure your loved one to amend the trust for their benefit. If this is the case, you may contest the trust on the grounds of undue influence.
- Errors or defects in the trust amendment. California trust laws are complex. In some cases, a grantor may only amend a revocable trust according to the methods laid out in the original trust document. Therefore, you may be able to challenge the validity of an amendment based on these grounds. This kind of trust contest is complicated, so it is essential to consult with a trust litigation attorney about your specific case.
Speak to a San Diego Trust Litigation Attorney Now!
Trust litigation can arise when disputes occur between a beneficiary and a trustee, between beneficiaries, or from a third party. Trust disputes can have severe consequences for the trust and its beneficiaries. Negligent or fraudulent trustees can harm the trust and its assets.
Managing a trust dispute alone can lead to more legal troubles, additional expenses, and damaged family relationships. If you face issues concerning trusts, seek legal advice from a San Diego trust litigation lawyer at Casiano Law Firm.