A trust is set up to make sure your property is protected and will be distributed to the correct beneficiaries. But what happens if the validity of that trust is in question? How can you resolve the matter? The Nashville trust dispute lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC are dedicated to making sure the trust in question is disputed, rather than being executed. We understand how difficult the situation can be and do all that we can to make sure the issue is resolved in a timely fashion.
A Trust Dispute in TN: What You Need to Know
Let’s say you doubt the validity of a loved one’s trust. How do you know if you have a claim?
It’s important to know when it is the right situation to dispute a trust. Some common reasons include:
The trust was not constructed properly. For example, the proper amount of witness signatures is not on the document.
At the time the trust was created, the grantor lacked the necessary capacity. In other words, the individual did not understand what he/she was creating.
The grantor was unduly influenced by another individual into signing the trust.
The language in the trust is ambiguous.
The trust was procured by fraud. For example, someone had signed the trust believing that it was another document.
If any of these situations are true, then only a person who has legal standing can file the claim (i.e. someone who will be affected by the outcome of the lawsuit). This means one of the following can dispute a trust:
Disinherited or disadvantaged heirs at law – Family members who would either inherit or would inherit more under state law if the trust is made invalid.
Disinherited or disadvantaged beneficiaries – Beneficiaries, which can be a family member, a close friend, or even a charity, named or given a larger amount in a prior trust.
It is the decision of the probate court who decides whether the trust is valid. If it is found invalid, then the trust will be thrown out.
No-Contest Clauses in Trusts
Before considering challenging a trust in Tennessee, you need to know if an in terrorem clause was added. Also known as a no-contest or forfeiture clause, an in terrorem clause is added to keep beneficiaries from contesting the trust. If someone does try to contest the trust, that individual runs the risk of disinheriting or reducing their shares.
However, there are times when challenging a trust is necessary. Under the Tennessee Uniform Trust Act, a challenge can be made as long as the individual has “probable cause and reasonable justification.” This means the contestant needs to have a reasonable ground or justification to bring the action, which can be quite difficult unless you have the right estate litigation attorney by your side.
Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard are Ready to Help
For decades, the estate lawyers of Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC have helped people across Middle Tennessee prepare a trust. We have helped our clients not only select the best person to administer the trust but have stepped in as trustees. We know the complex issues surrounding building a secure trust and will do everything we can to make sure everything runs smoothly.
If you need legal assistance in contesting a trust or resolving any other estate planning matter, contact us now for more information.