Exploring California Trust Litigation: Understanding its Features and Challenges

Navigating California Estate Planning: What Happens to Your Bank Account After You Pass Away?


In a previous article, we delved into estate litigation and its various aspects. Now, we turn our attention to trust litigation specifically, which involves civil disputes related to trusts, including their creation, trustee actions, and associated matters. Trusts serve as crucial estate planning tools, but they can also be established for other purposes. As such, trust litigation extends beyond situations following the passing of an individual.

Challenging the Trust or its Administration:

Trust litigation generally revolves around two types of legal challenges: those targeting the trust itself and those concerning the administration of the trust. The parties involved in such cases typically include trustees, trust beneficiaries, and third parties. While beneficiaries often challenge the existence of a trust, third-party litigants primarily challenge its validity. When trust administration is contested, the litigants usually comprise the trustees and beneficiaries, with the latter seeking legal redress against the trustees’ actions.

Legal Grounds for Challenging Trusts:

When contesting the validity of a trust, the legal grounds typically align with California laws and precedents regarding the proper creation of trusts. Common challenges may encompass:

  1. Incapacity of the trust maker: The trust documents must be executed by a mentally competent individual, and physical incapacity can also be relevant.
  2. Undue influence: This challenge arises when a trust is created or modified late in the trust maker’s life, suggesting the exertion of excessive emotional influence or mental control by someone.
  3. Coercion/abuse: Legal challenges may argue that the trust or its modifications were influenced by abuse, coercion, intimidation, physical control, threats, or similar factors.
  4. Violation of California law: This challenge contends that the trust was not created in accordance with the applicable California laws.

Legal Grounds for Challenging Trust Administration:

Challenges to trust administration also rely on California laws, legal precedents, and the terms of the trust documents. For instance, if the trust documents stipulate that the trustee must seek court approval for certain actions, failure to obtain such approval can lead to legal action by beneficiaries or affected parties. The most common challenges in trust administration relate to breaches of fiduciary duties owed to the beneficiaries. These include:

  1. Duty of loyalty
  2. Duty to avoid self-dealing or diverting opportunities meant for the trust
  3. Duty to refrain from misappropriating trust assets for personal gain
  4. Duty to exercise due care when managing trust assets
  5. Duty to carry out trust instructions properly
  6. Duty to exercise discretion in good faith
  7. Duty to provide accurate accounting of trust assets to beneficiaries

The aforementioned duties encompass various specific obligations, such as disbursing trust funds as instructed, settling trust debts, maintaining trust properties, filing trust tax returns, and more.

Navigating the Complexities of California Trust Litigation:

California trust litigation can be legally intricate. If you are involved in or considering trust litigation, it is crucial to seek guidance from experienced trust and estate attorneys in California who can provide sound legal advice and representation.

Contact Our Skilled Estate Planning Attorneys in Irvine, CA:

For more information, reach out to the Irvine, California estate planning attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. Our mission is to offer unparalleled legal services in estate planning. You can contact us via our contact pageor by calling (949) 444-5474.