Trusts are used in estate planning to ensure your interests and goals are carried out as you see fit. However, sometimes issues arise in trust administration or establishment that require legal action to resolve. The estate planning lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC can advise individuals in the Nashville area on contesting the terms or other aspects of a trust. Our firm is dedicated to making sure that all estate planning instruments have integrity, rather than being executed as a result of fraud, undue influence, or another misuse of power that would render them invalid. We represent clients throughout Williamson and Davidson Counties with the care and zeal that they deserve.Common Grounds for Contesting a Trust
Trusts or wills can be challenged based on a premise that the person making the instrument was not of sound mind when he or she established the document. A beneficiary or another interested party who has been negatively affected can contest the validity of a trust by filing suit, alleging that fraud or undue influence was involved when the trust was executed. To show undue influence, a plaintiff contesting a trust must prove that a confidential relationship existed between the trustor and the person accused of exercising improper control. A confidential relationship may be established in numerous ways, one of which is if the person has been granted a previous, unlimited power of attorney over a trustor’s affairs that he or she has utilized. This relationship may also be present when a person has been placed in a position of trust or confidence, such as a full-time caretaker.
After a confidential relationship has been established, the burden of proof shifts to the person accused of exercising undue influence, and he or she must prove that no such influence was present when the trust was established. If a trustor’s mental capacity is questioned, the jury may consider various factors when determining if a trustor was not of sound mind, including physical limitations or weaknesses, disease, age, and mental incapacity or illnesses. Those who are considering taking action to contest a trust or will should do so with some caution. Under Tennessee law, if a trust contains an in terrorem or no-contest clause, a beneficiary pursuing a trust contest action may lose some or all of his or her inheritance and interests conveyed.
Probable cause is necessary in bringing trust contest actions, meaning that a person must have reasonable grounds for contesting the trust and not simply be unhappy with its terms. When a trust is found invalid by undue influence or fraud, it can be rendered void of the invalid changes or transfers. Trust-related litigation may involve highly complex issues or require detailed investigation into parties and circumstances. Making sure you have the assistance of a competent estate planning attorney can be vital in protecting your rights.Seek Legal Guidance for Probate Disputes in the Nashville Area
At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC, our knowledgeable probate litigation attorneys can help Nashville residents contest a trust that may have been improperly established. We also assist clients in Sylvan Park, Brentwood, and Franklin, among other communities throughout Tennessee. If you need legal assistance in contesting a trust or resolving any other estate planning matter, contact us online or call us at 615-800-7096 to arrange a consultation.