Trust Contests

An individual or other interested party to a trust can request information from a trustee of a New York trust under Section 2102 of the Surrogate Court Procedures Act. If a party to a trust suspects that there is something wrong with the trust, they can contest the trust’s validity. A review of the trust by a probate attorney in NY is recommended prior to making a trust contest. The attorney will be able to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to initiate a trust contest proceeding. A trust contest proceeding can be filed with the New York Surrogate’s Court while the maker of the trust (settler) is still living or after the settler has passed away. Typically, trust contests occur after the settler has passed away when disputes arise among beneficiaries over a trust provision or with an omitted heir.

Can a Trust be Contested?

Most grounds for a trust contest have to do with claims that the settler was not of sound mind at the time the settler made the trust or there was undue influence, duress or fraud involved by another person. For example, frequently, one family member takes on the role of caretaker of a loved one such as a parent. When the parent passes away, the family discovers that the settler left the caretaker a larger share of the settler’s estate. The other family members may suspect that the caretaker had undue influence over their loved one’s decision and may decide to contest the trust.

Although many trust instruments may contain a no-contest clause, a no-contest clause does not legally prevent a beneficiary or other interested person to a trust from making a trust contest. Although, it may help to discourage a named beneficiary from doing so because the beneficiary would have to give up all claims to any trust assets if the beneficiary loses the trust contest action.

Filing a Trust Contest

The trustee has the responsibility of trying to settle the dispute against the trust and estate. Typically the trustee will hire a New York estate and trust litigation attorney at the onset of any challenges of the validity of the trust by an heir, beneficiary or other interested party to assist the trustee with resolving the matter. If the parties are unable to come to an agreement, then the party asserting the challenge can file a petition with the New York Surrogate’s Court contesting the trust.

A trust contest proceeding must be filed with the Court no later than the statutory six year period after the settler’s death. In order to make sure that all the assets have not been distributed to the beneficiaries, it is suggested that the trust contest be made sooner than later. The Court has the jurisdiction to hear and decide a trust contest matter regarding a revocable or non-revocable trust.

New York Trust Litigation Attorney

Trust contest litigation matters can be quite complex. If you suspect that there may be a legal issue or problem with a trust that you are a party to, then you should seek legal advice immediately from a NYC trust litigation lawyer. Mike St. Pre will review the trust instrument to determine the validity of the trust instrument. He also handles routine estate and trust administration matters. Call us today, we are available 24/7.