The death of a loved one can be an emotionally charged and draining experience. What happens when this emotional time becomes even more complicated because issues arise in the distribution of the deceased’s trust? The thought of taking legal action at such a time may feel impossible and overwhelming, but your financial future could be at stake. When it comes to asset or property division, it’s important that you take action before the trust is completely drained or mismanaged.
The skilled Dallas contested trust litigation attorneys at Staubus and Randall will handle the legal legwork for you and walk you through every step of the lawsuit. We understand that sometimes conflicts can arise following the death of a loved one. Our legal team has the knowledge and experience to tackle the complex legal issues that can arise from disputing a trust in the state of Texas.
If you are considering contesting a trust, contact Staubus and Randall at 214-691-3411 for an evaluation of the circumstances surrounding your case. We want to fight for you.
What Is a Trust?
A trust is simply a legal document that arranges for certain named individuals to hold assets or property on behalf of the person creating the trust. The person that creates the trust is also known as the grantor or the settlor. The person who is held responsible for managing the trust is called the trustee. It is the job of the trustee to protect the assets of the trust and make sure they are properly and correctly distributed to the named beneficiaries.
A living trust is a legal agreement that can be created while the property owner is still living. The grantor names the beneficiaries, and they receive the trust property after the grantor passes away. One of the advantages to a living trust is that it can help save family members the expense and delay of going through probate court.
In contrast, a testamentary trust takes effect after the maker’s death, but property passes into the trust by way of the will. This means that it must go through the probate court process before being distributed.
What Is a Trust Dispute?
A trust is originally formed in order to distribute property or assets in accordance with the grantor’s wishes. It is a legal agreement that is meant to keep these assets safe until they can be properly distributed for the benefit of the named party. Many people are under the assumption that a trust is an indisputable document – that simply isn’t the case. A trust can be disputed, but depending on the circumstances of the case, it can be a complicated legal process.
There are two main concerns that tend to give rise to trust disputes. The first is typically due to disagreement between beneficiaries over the validity of the trust itself. The second main form of dispute that can arise relates to the distribution of the assets at the hands of the appointed trustee. If beneficiaries feel that the trustee if mishandling the property or not administering the assets correctly, this can lead to a dispute over the trust in court.
Under What Circumstances Should You Dispute a Trust?
There are many circumstances and ways in which trust disputes arise in the state of Texas. A seasoned trust attorney will be able to review the circumstances of your individual case and give you the best legal advice for your particular situation. In general, these are some of the more common ways in which a trust may be disputed:
- The trustee is mishandling the distribution of the assets or property or fails to follow the terms of the trust
- The trustee improperly invests the trust assets
- The trustee steals from the estate
- The grantor lacked the mental stability or capacity to sign the trust document – this may mean the creator did not understand the document, didn’t understand what their assets were, or didn’t understand how the trust would distribute the assets.
- An individual used undue influence to coerce the grantor into signing the trust
- The grantor’s signature was forged
- The language used in the trust itself is confusing, ambiguous, or otherwise unclear about the grantor’s wishes
What Is the Process for Disputing a Trust?
In order to dispute a trust, the individual who wants to file the dispute must first have some standing to sue or some interest in the final result of the case, such as a beneficiary of the trust. That individual must then go through the process of filing a lawsuit in state probate court or district court. There must be a valid reason to dispute the validity of the trust itself, such as one of the examples given above.
However, the cause is only one part of the equation. You must be able to prove to the court that the trust should be invalidated. If a person is claiming that the grantor lacked the mental capacity to understand an sign a legal document, such as a trust, there needs to be medical records, documentation, or other evidence demonstrating that the grantor lacked mental capacity, or was susceptible to undue influence. If a beneficiary claims that the trustee is mishandling assets, there needs to be evidence presented that shows the trustee is not acting with their fiduciary duty.
In the event that a court is convinced that the terms of the trust should be invalidated, the assets might then be distributed according to a previous will or trust. In the event that there is no such document, the state court may decide how to distribute all property and assets. However, if a probate court cannot be convinced that the trust should be invalidated, the assets will continue to be distributed as outlined by the trust document.
The process of disputing a trust can become very complicated, especially depending on the value of the trust or the types of property and assets that the trust includes. An experienced estate attorney can give you the legal advice you need regarding how to proceed and what your best options are. The attorneys at Staubus and Randall will thoroughly investigate and prepare your case and will aggressively represent your best interests at the negotiating table or in court.
Frequently Asked Questions
Following are some of the most common questions we receive about trust contests. An attorney can work with you directly to answer any questions you have about your specific circumstances.
What happens when the trustee is not following the rules of the trust?
A trustee has discretion to make decisions about the trust. However, that does not mean that they have carte blanche to do whatever they like in relation to that trust. There are rules they must abide by, and there are limits to what they can do. There are serious consequences for trustees who do not correctly handle or distribute the assets of a trust. They may be removed or even charged if they stole money from the trust.
How long can I expect a trust dispute to last?
The short answer is, it depends on the circumstances. Disputing a trust in the state of Texas may take a matter of weeks to resolve, but in some cases, it can take years. The length of the dispute typically revolves around how valuable the assets of the trust are and how determined each party is in gaining the outcome that is most favorable to them. In cases where both parties have an unwillingness to negotiate, settling the dispute may take years.
How much will disputing a trust end up costing?
Again, that is a question that can have many different answers depending on the circumstances of the dispute. Talking to an experienced estate litigation attorney is the best way to get a clearer picture of the fees you may incur and how long you can reasonably expect a case to take to make its way through the court system. The attorneys with Staubus and Randall offer consultations in order to give you a better idea of what your legal options are.
Why Choose Staubus and Randall for a Trust Dispute
The legal team at Staubus and Randall is made up of attorneys who are experienced in trust litigation and estate planning. With a dynamic combination of trial law skills, strategic thinking, and aggressive representation at the negotiating table, we pride ourselves on giving our clients the outstanding service they deserve. We understand that challenging a trust can be intimidating and daunting. However, our compassionate attorneys will help you navigate this complicated process at every step.
The attorneys with Staubus and Randall have over 100 combined years of legal experience. That’s experience that you can trust. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re considering disputing a trust, contact our team at 214-691-3411 to schedule a consultation. When your financial future is at stake, trust the legal team at Staubus and Randall to help you achieve the best legal outcome for your situation.