Can a Living Trust Be Disputed?

By Maggie Lourdes

A living trust is an estate planning tool that allows a person's property to bypass probate court proceedings after death. At the same time, living trusts generally allow people to maintain full control over their assets during their lifetimes. Trusts are governed by state law and, like all legal documents, must comply with applicable statutes. A trust that does not conform with the law may be challenged in court and partially or completely invalidated.

Standing to Dispute

Not just anyone can dispute a living trust. A person must prove she has legal standing to challenge a trust. This means a party must show she would be harmed if the trust terms were enforced. For example, John Smith's trust leaves his assets "to all my children, Betty and Mary." John has another child, Sally, who the trustee tries to eliminate because she is not mentioned by name. Sally has standing to argue her father accidentally left out her name since the trust states all of his children are to receive his property.

Technical Disputes

Each state has its own laws governing the technical legal requirements for making a trust. Generally, a person making a living trust must be at least 18 years of age. Trusts must be made to accomplish a legal purpose. For example, a trust cannot be made for the specific intention of laundering money. Trusts that hold real estate must be in writing and signed by the trust's maker. A person may dispute the legal enforceability of a trust if he can prove it fails to meet a technical, legal requirement.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan


A trust may meet all technical requirements, but it still may fail if fraud exists. For example, Bob is tricked into signing a trust for his house after being told it is a contract for lawn services. The legality of the trust can be disputed because Bob was fraudulently induced to sign. Even if Bob is a competent adult, and the trust is signed and in writing, a court could invalidate it based on fraud.

Pressure and Conflicts

A party must sign a trust under his own free will. If a person signs under duress, while being physically threatened, for example, the enforceability of the trust can be disputed. Undue influence is a similar ground for disputing a trust. Undue influence occurs when someone, such as an elderly person, is pressured or rushed into signing a legal document. A trust may also be challenged if a person closely involved with the drafting, witnessing or encouragement for a trust stands to gain by its terms. Such conflicts of interests may undermine the trust's validity.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Rules and Regulations of North Carolina Last Wills and Trusts


Related articles

Is a Living Trust Liable or Subject to Probate?

A living trust holds assets that are managed by a trustee for intended beneficiaries. Also called a revocable trust, it differs from other trusts in that the trust creator, or grantor, can also serve as the trustee and can make changes to, or even revoke, the trust in its entirety during his lifetime. Living trusts are attractive because the grantor retains ultimate control over his assets while he is alive, but they are most commonly used to avoid probate.

California Law Regarding Revocable Trusts

California residents who want to protect their assets from probate court can draw up a revocable trust -- also known as a living trust. The trust allows you to pass homes, investments and other property to your heirs. The term "revocable" means you can change the terms of the trust or revoke it altogether during your lifetime. Although the trust enables you to avoid probate, the assets are still subject to federal and California income taxes, as well as to estate tax.

Can a Trustee Be a Beneficiary in Illinois?

Trusts are a popular method for transferring property to others in Illinois. Its chief advantage is that all the assets in the trust are kept out of probate, allowing the beneficiaries to receive the property immediately after a decedent's death. Also, unlike a will, which is published during the probate process, the contents of a trust is kept private. For every trust there must be someone to manages the trust, known as a trustee, and people who benefit, known as beneficiaries. Each state has its own standards regarding how trusts can be structured and what roles a person may hold in a trust. Illinois is no exception.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

What Happens to a Trust When No One Is Named As a Beneficiary?

Trusts are popular estate planning tools because they allow heirs to avoid probate court proceedings. A trust is ...

What Can Invalidate a Living Trust?

With a living trust, an individual - known as the "settlor" - typically gives up control of property placed in the ...

Protesting a Trust

A trust is a legal instrument that allows a trust owner to maintain full control of his assets both before and after ...

Can a Deceased Person's Estate Give Property Under a Trust?

Normally, trusts are used to keep property out of an estate. Having property included in probate delays its ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED