How To: Going Through a Trust Litigation Process

A trust is intended to offer financial support for the deceased beneficiaries and can increase the future stability of family members. It is not uncommon for there to be issues or complications surrounding a trust. Sometimes beneficiaries feel they are not adequately receiving what was owed, or have concerns the legacy of the passed loved one is not being effectively protected.

Beneficiaries may dispute between each other regarding the trust, and if they believe it is being mismanaged. It is possible for legal issues to arise, despite the best of intentions from the deceased loved one as they established their trust prior to passing.

Causes of Trust Related Issues

There are many reasons a trust litigation may arise. The legitimacy and validity of a trust may be questioned by relatives and/or beneficiaries. A trust litigation request is commonly brought to trial due to any of the below concerns:

  • The legalities regarding formation of the trust
  • How the trust is interpreted
  • Misappropriation of funds in the trust by a trustee or executor
  • The person creating the trust was of an unsound mind at the time
  • Intimidation
  • Deceptive practices
  • Forgery
  • Revocation of trust at a future date

Why Loved Ones Seek an Attorney

There are a variety of reasons a beneficiary or family member may move forward with a trust litigation case. There may have been a fault or misstep by an executor of the trust or a relative feels they should have been listed, but were forgotten. The type of scenarios that may need assistance of a legal professional include:

  • Removal of Trustee
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Fraud
  • Compelling Trustees to Account
  • Trust Contests
  • Petitions to Instruct Trustee
  • Appointment of Independent Trustee
  • Omitted Heirs & Spouses
  • Reclaiming Trust Property
  • Violation to Prudent Investor Rule

8 Steps of Trust Litigation

  1. Investigation & Research: gathering of evidence and strength of the case is assessed
  2. Pleading/Petitioning: filing of petition is submitted and a notice of hearing is sent to appropriate family members
  3. Discovery or Obtaining of Evidence: typically the most expensive stage, both sides bring forth depositions, interrogatories and evidence in support of their claims
  4. Mediation by Judge: judge orders parties to attend mediation, in attempts to find a resolution and settle the case
  5. Expert Witness Depositions: when related to the case, a party can bring forward a neuropsychologist, psychiatrist, forensic accountant or other professional to speak on behalf of the deceased and his or her mental state when the trust was formed
  6. Preparation of Trial: witnesses are requested to testify in court, attorneys are considering evidence and strength of case before a final hearing
  7. Bench Trial Hearing: a judge hears from both sides of the trial, the process can take anywhere from one day to months
  8. Appeal: if your side of the case is lost, you can request an appeal

When it comes to your loved one’s wishes being handled correctly after their passing, having to deal with an error or complication can be emotional. By reading over the above information, hopefully it has given you an overall idea of what a trust litigation entails ad help you decide if requesting a hearing is the right thing to do. Speak with an experienced lawyer today such as the  trust attorney Roseville CA locals turn to.


Thanks to authors at The Yee Law Group for their insight into Trust Litigation.