Defending A Trust From A Relative’s Challenge

Ideally, every family in Southern California would be close and loving with each other. In this veritable Garden of Eden, creating an estate plan would be easy. Every parent would draw up a will, trust or combination of the two that would name their children as equal beneficiaries of his or her estate. When the time comes, there would be no destructive family feuds over the plan.

Sadly, some Calabasas families do find themselves in a dispute over the contents of a will or trust when a parent passes away. These legal challenges may sometimes be necessary, but it is usually best when you make your wishes as clear as possible to minimize the chances that one child goes to probate court against another.

One common challenge to an estate plan is that the decedant was not of sound mind when he or she created or amended the plan. This claim may be easier to prove in court if the decedant had been diagnosed with a form of dementia or was living in a nursing home at the time. A child may claim that a sibling, stepparent or other relative took advantage of the decedant’s health and pressured him or her into changing the estate plan to exclude the challenger.

However, it is often a parent’s wish to leave only a small amount of the estate to one child. Perhaps the child is estranged from the parent or is financially better off than his or her siblings. Whatever the reason, if a parent wants to make his or her wishes clear, it is best to develop an estate plan while he or she is still in good health, if possible. It may also help your case later to go to an estate planning attorney by yourself, unaccompanied by those children or other beneficiaries who stand to collect the lions’s share of the estate, to avoid accusations of undue influene.

Source: Napa Valley Register, “It’s never too early to disinherit your children,” May 9, 2013