Long Beach Estate Attorneys & Probate Lawyers

Long Beach Trust Estate Litigation Lawer Los Angeles

Challenging Improper Wills and Trusts Through Effective Litigation

When a trust is established, or when a will is submitted to the probate court, you may assume that it is final and legally binding. This is not always the case. California probate law allows family members, friends, and other potential beneficiaries to challenge improper wills or trusts when legal grounds exist. An experienced Long Beach estate attorney at Hackard Law can help you determine whether you have sufficient grounds to challenge a will or trust, your likelihood of a successful challenge, and how to most effectively and efficiently launch your challenge.

Common Challenges to the Validity of a Will or Trust

Potential beneficiaries can make many common challenges, and some uncommon ones, to a will or trust. Often, a challenge begins with the most fundamental requirement for making a will: that the person making the will (the "testator") must be mentally competent at the time the will is made. Section 6100.5 (a) of the California Probate Code sets forth the conditions that make a person incompetent to execute a will.

(1) The individual does not have sufficient mental capacity to be able to (A) understand the nature of the testamentary act, (B) understand and recollect the nature and situation of the individual's property, or (C) remember and understand the individual's relations to living descendants, spouse, and parents, and those whose interests are affected by the will.

(2) The individual suffers from a mental disorder with symptoms including delusions or hallucinations, which delusions or hallucinations result in the individual's devising property in a way which, except for the existence of the delusions or hallucinations, the individual would not have done.

The Probate Code has no comparable statute that establishes the mental capacity required to execute a trust. Rather, it deems any person with the capacity to transfer property also competent to execute a trust. California case law explores the nuances of this standard in greater detail. A probate attorney can help you determine whether you have adequate legal grounds to challenge the capacity of a person who executed a trust (the "grantor").

Potential beneficiaries can also challenge wills and trusts when they were formed as the result of fraud, duress, undue influence, or coercion. The applicable legal standards vary for each of these situations. The success of such a challenge highly depends on the facts of the formation of the will or trust. As a result, you need to hire a probate litigator to review your case and determine whether the facts rise to the level of legally prohibited conduct.

In particularly egregious cases, the coercive conduct may rise to the level of financial abuse of a vulnerable adult. Such abuse violates the California Penal Code. In addition to constituting a crime that subjects the perpetrator to fines and prison terms, financial abuse can also invalidate wills, trusts, or other financial transactions that resulted from the abuse. Family members or friends who are concerned about elderly loved ones should report suspected abuse to law enforcement authorities. Early, swift investigation can protect elderly loved ones from further harm.

The state Attorney General's Office has published a helpful guide about financial abuse of vulnerable elders in California. This can provide much-needed guidance to Californians who are concerned about their elderly loved ones.

Finding the Right Attorney for Probate Litigation

Finding an attorney with the appropriate experience and skill set to launch a successful probate challenge can prove difficult. Estate planning attorneys are experienced in comprehensive strategic planning and other administrative tools to carry out a person's wishes.

This experience does not always enable an estate planning attorney to successfully litigate challenges to the validity of a will or trust. Litigation requires an entirely different skill set. The lawyer must prepare to identify all potential challenges to the administration of the estate and prepare to defend these challenges from attacks by other interested parties. The lawyer must also effectively present these arguments to a judge or jury and quickly respond to objections made in court during the heat of litigation. These skills only come through litigation experience. Not all estate planning attorneys have the requisite experience to effectively litigate probate challenges.

On the other hand, an attorney with only litigation experience may not have a sufficient understanding of the probate process, substantive probate law, or how to effectively apply probate law to the facts of your case. Experience in probate law is critical to an attorney's success in litigation. Many litigators focus on civil claims and do not have extensive experience in the area of probate law. Without this substantive understanding and practical experience, an attorney can waste litigation skills on the probate court. Much like an estate planning attorney, a civil litigation attorney will not necessarily have the comprehensive skill set required for effective probate litigation.

Why Hackard Law Is the Right Choice for Probate Litigation

At Hackard Law, our attorneys have extensive experience in probate litigation. They are limited to neither estate planning nor litigation. With years of experience in the specific nuances of probate litigation, they have the understanding necessary to effectively litigate probate challenges. Whether your case involves the financial abuse of a vulnerable adult, challenges to the mental capacity of the person who executed the will or trust, claims of undue influence by unscrupulous family members or caregivers, or other legal challenges, our probate litigators have the experience necessary to present the strongest possible case to the probate court.

An experienced Long Beach estate attorney can help you determine whether you have a valid legal challenge to a will, trust, estate, or any other procedure in the probate court. Call (213) 357-5200 today to schedule your free consultation with one of the attorneys at Hackard Law. We have decades of experience in effectively challenging improper estate planning documents through effective probate litigation.