UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSIONATE Service Through Uncertain Times


How Does the “No Contest” Clause Impact Trust Litigation Cases in California?

Trust Litigation

What Does a “No Contest” Clause Do for Trusts in California?

Sometimes the beneficiary of a trust or will believes that the decedent, or deceased person, believes the document was created illegally, such as under forgery or undue influence. If the beneficiary wishes, they may bring a lawsuit to contest the document’s validity. If the person wins, the will or trust would be ruled void in a court of law.
To prevent this, trustors in the State of California have the option of including a “No Contest” clause. This addition to the trust is thought to nullify a beneficiary’s inheritance if they contest the will and is intended to deter beneficiaries from suing. However, the truth is that many beneficiaries may still sue despite the existence of a no-contest clause.
If you want help to create a legally sound will or trust that protects you and your beneficiaries, or if you are a beneficiary who believes an estate planning document was created illegally, you should hire a California attorney specializing in trust litigation like those at Yonano Law Offices, P.C. You can reach us at 916-894-8790 to schedule an initial consultation with our skilled legal team.

When Should I File a Contest for a Will or Trust?

As the beneficiary of a will or trust, knowing when to contest the proceedings following a loved one’s death can be difficult. Even if the trust or will has a no-contest clause, you may still wish to bring a lawsuit if a reasonable person would suspect any of the following:
· Lack of capacity
· Undue influence or menace
· Forgery
· Fraud
· Lack of due execution
California courts take estate probation very seriously, and the documents must be properly prepared and signed by a person of sound mind. If you suspect the decedent was operating under duress or that the will was forged, you may be able to prove this to a judge and rule the will, including the no-contest clause, invalid. Reach out to our caring, capable legal team to learn more about how we can help.

What Happens if I Bring Litigation Regarding a Trust with a No Contest Clause in Calfornia?

California Probate Code 21311 states that no-contest clauses can only be enforced in certain circumstances. Individuals may sue to prove a will or trust invalid if the following are true:
· A direct contest is brought with probable cause
· The pleading to challenge the transfer of property is on the grounds that it was not the decedent’s property at the time of the transfer
· The court determines that a reasonable person would believe that the document was invalid after further investigation

Suing with Probable Cause

A beneficiary may not have the no-contest clause exercised if the judge believes they had probable cause for suing. Even if the beneficiary loses the suit, the no-contest clause may not be enforced if the judge recognizes that a reasonable person would have believed it possible for the document to have been a forgery or fraud.
Hiring litigation support for trust cases in California is crucial to developing a strong case to demonstrate the validity behind your suspicion. Contact our law firm immediately if you believe your loved one was acting under duress or their trust is a forgery.

Beneficiary Receives Nothing Under the Will

Another time when a beneficiary may wish to sue despite the no-contest clause is when they would not inherit anything from the will anyway. In these cases, they literally have nothing to lose by contesting the will or trust.
For those preparing their estate plan, assigning a significant gift or asset to any beneficiary you wish to discourage from contesting your will might be beneficial. This could make the no contest will more of a deterrent from lawsuits.

Settling Without a Trial

Often, a beneficiary can avoid the results of a no-contest clause by settling the matter without using the court system. Filing a contest in the California courts without probable cause is the only way to enact the clause. Settling the matter privately can help your family find solutions without disinheriting concerned beneficiaries. Reach out to our legal team for help resolving disputes regarding wills and trusts without using the court system.

Challenging a Trustee’s or Executor’s Actions

Contesting the actions of a third fiduciary party, such as a trustee or executor, would not invoke the no-contest clause. Although some individuals may make threats to discourage you from questioning their decisions, you have every right to ask questions and ensure the fiduciary party is acting in accordance with the decedent’s wishes. No contest clauses do not apply to the actions of the trustee or executor, and the beneficiary will not forfeit their inheritance by doing so.

What Should I Do if I Need to Take Legal Action Regarding a Trust in California?

Bringing a lawsuit over a trust or other estate planning document can be overwhelming and emotional at this challenging time. Please don’t feel that you have to navigate this complex legal procedure alone. The California attorneys for trust conflict resolution at Yonano Law Offices, P.C. understand how you feel and are ready to help you find the solutions you need to any dispute regarding your loved one’s will or trust.
Our thorough knowledge of California probate law gives us insight that will protect your rights and help you get the inheritance you deserve. We can assist you in bringing a contest as a beneficiary who is concerned about the validity of a will and in developing legally sound estate planning documents, such as wills and trusts. Call today to schedule your initial consultation at 916-894-8790.

Related Articles