Can I Contest a Trust Amendment?

Oakland and San Francisco Trust Litigation Attorney Explains

Photo of a legal documentOne of the benefits of establishing a revocable living trust is that the grantor retains the power to alter or annul the trust at any time. Additionally, although the process is often more difficult, it is possible to amend or modify even an irrevocable living trust. However, in some circumstances, the grantor may be coerced or influenced to make trust amendments that do not reflect his or her true wishes. You may be unaware that your loved one amended the trust of which you are a beneficiary until after his or her death. Therefore, sometimes it may be necessary for beneficiaries to contest a trust amendment. Although such a contest is possible, it is a complex process requiring the assistance of an experienced trust litigation attorney.

At the Triay Law Office, founder and attorney Charles Triay focuses his practice exclusively on probate and trust litigation. He has over 30 years of experience with California’s complex probate laws and estate and trust litigation. He also has a specialist certification in estate, probate, and trust law. If you believe that you have reason to contest a trust amendment that affects you as a beneficiary, then contact us today for more information.

When Can I Amend a Trust?

In California, the ability of the grantor to amend a trust depends on the type of trust in question as well as the terms of that trust. An irrevocable living trust allows a grantor to move certain assets out of his or her estate during his or her lifetime, and usually cannot be amended.

However, irrevocable trusts can be amended in circumstances where the grantor and beneficiaries all agree. Additionally, the beneficiaries may be able to petition the probate court to modify certain terms of an irrevocable trust after the grantor’s death.

Alternatively, the grantor often can modify a revocable living trust. Amending a revocable trust usually requires additional paperwork, but can be accomplished by strikeouts and handwritten additions to the original document. Whether the amendment is by a separate document, of changes on the original trust document, it requires a date and signature. If the changes are significant, then a “restatement” of the trust, a complete re-write, may be necessary.

Some of the most common reasons for trust amendments or restatements are:

  • Addition of a beneficiary or updating personal information. A grantor may add beneficiaries after a marriage, birth or other circumstance.
  • Exclusion of a beneficiary. An amendment that removes a beneficiary or beneficiaries is a common issue that may lead to litigation.
  • Changing the distribution of assets. Circumstances change, so the grantor may need to update which beneficiaries receive which assets.
  • Changing the successor trustee. In some cases, the grantor may wish to name a different trustee.
  • Addition, revocation or alteration of the trust provisions. Any change to the trust parameters requires an amendment. For example, the grantor may wish to remove restrictions that allow beneficiaries to receive assets only after reaching a certain age.

What Are Grounds for Contesting a Trust Amendment?

In some cases, the trust beneficiaries may wish to contest a trust amendment after the death of a grantor. Some common grounds to contest trust amendments include:

  • Incompetence. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to argue that the grantor was not of sound mind when amending the trust. This may apply in situations involving elderly or ill trust grantors.
  • Undue influence. Sometimes, a caregiver or other individual may pressure your loved one into amending a trust to that person’s benefit. If so, then you may be able to contest the trust on the grounds of undue influence.
  • Defective amendment documents. California trust law is complex; sometimes, a grantor may amend a revocable trust only according to the methods laid out in the original trust document. Therefore, you may be able to challenge the validity of an amendment on these grounds. However, due to the complicated nature of this kind of trust contest, always consult with a trust litigation lawyer about your individual circumstances.

Need Help? Contact Our Attorneys to Learn How to Contest a Trust Amendment

If you discovered that a loved one’s trust was amended or have concerns about a restated trust, then contact Triay Law Office today. Our trust litigation attorneys can advise you on your unique circumstances and explain how California trust law may apply. We have been handling complex trust litigation in Oakland and San Francisco for over 30 years. If you have legitimate grounds to contest a trust amendment, then we can help. Call (510) 463-3165 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.