Problems often arise among beneficiaries after the creator of a trust has passed away. There may be disputes over provisions of the trust, the failure to include one or more heirs, or even the entire trust document. When this occurs, the New York Surrogate Court has the jurisdiction to decide contest matters regarding revocable or non-revocable trusts.
How to Proceed With a Trust Contest in New York
The first thing beneficiaries should determine is whether the trust contains a no-contest clause. While a no-contest clause does not legally prevent a beneficiary from contesting the conditions of the trust, it does place the beneficiary’s current inheritance at risk. If one or more beneficiaries bring a trust contest action and lose, they give up their claims to all trust assets.
If a beneficiary to a trust suspects illegal activity, omissions, or other problem with the trust, he or she can contest the trust’s validity by:
- Finding grounds for the contest. Much like the contesting of a will, the grounds for contesting a trust often involve a claim of undue influence over the settlor (maker of the trust) or claims that the settlor was not of sound mind at the time the trust was created. An estate litigation attorney can determine whether there are sufficient grounds to initiate a trust contest proceeding based on the patient’s medical records, witness testimony, and experience with legal filing requirements and contract laws.
- Establishing the ability to bring a claim. Not all relatives or friends of the settlor are legally able to contest a trust in court. In order to challenge the trust, a contestant must have a financial interest in the trust or stand to inherit a portion of the settlor’s assets under intestacy laws.
- Entering mediation. Any interested party to a trust is allowed to request information from the trustee, and the trustee has a responsibility to attempt to settle disputes. The sooner a trust litigation attorney is brought in, the more efficiently the trustee and interested parties can come to an agreement.
- Filing a trust contest proceeding. If the matter cannot be resolved between the heirs and trustee, the heirs can file a petition contesting the trust with the New York Surrogate Court. A trust contest proceeding must be filed with the Court no later than six years after the settlor’s death.
If you are a trustee or beneficiary facing potential legal action over a trust, you should seek legal advice from an NYC estate litigation attorney immediately. Contact our law firm today to tell us more about your dispute in your initial consultation.