Your parent recently died and left behind a trust in order to provide for you, your siblings and your stepsiblings. Although you feel gratitude for your parent’s generosity and forethought, the document is not what you expected. In fact, something seems downright wrong.

Should you contest the trust in court?

What California law says

As a beneficiary of the trust, you do have the right to petition the court regarding matters relating to the trust. You may believe one of the following factors is an issue:

  • Your parent failed to complete all the necessary requirements, such as signatures, witnesses, etc., for creating a legal trust.
  • Someone unduly influenced your parent’s decisions regarding the distribution of assets.
  • One of the provisions is not valid.
  • The terms of the trust are too vague for the trustee to carry out.
  • Your parent appointed a trustee who is not honest.

There are many other circumstances that the court considers appropriate for filing a petition. However, you do not want to get the courts involved just because you can.

When it is better not to file

Judges look very unfavorably on what they consider to be frivolous petitions, or petitions filed in bad faith. Therefore, it is important that you have all your facts and evidence lined up before you make the decision to file so that you do not appear to be filing out of greed or malice.

If, for example, you are contesting the person named as trustee, and the judge decides that you did not have a reasonable cause, you may have to pay the trustee compensation, court costs, attorney fees and any other expenses that he or she incurred while defending the account. This may come out of your portion of the interest as a beneficiary, but if that does not cover it, you may have to pay it out of your own pocket.