We’ve all watched movies where the wealthy family of their deceased patriarch gathers together in the library for the reading of a will or trust. Prepared to inherit millions, there is a feeling of excitement and entitlement in the air. As the lawyer begins the reading, “I, Biff Digby, being of sound mind and body, hereby leave my entire fortune to my dog,” the family gasps in horror, shouting erupts and threats are made.
While this may seem like Hollywood exaggeration, situations like this have actually happened. In fact, when American businesswoman and hotelier Leona Helmsley passed away, she left $12 million to her 9-year-old Maltese dog and the remaining $8 billion trust to be used for the care and welfare of dogs. Most of her human relatives were cut out of her estate plan completely.
After disputes by the Helmsley family, Trouble, her Maltese, eventually only received $2 million of her fortune. However, most of her fortune was still left to charitable causes, rather than family members.
Of course, this is an extreme example of disputing a trust. Most people will not stand to inherit millions or billions of dollars from a loved one. However, if you feel there are reasons to dispute a trust in Colorado, there must be grounds for this to occur. The courts will look for evidence that supports impropriety such as:
- The trust was created or modified due to undue influence from another person.
- A more current trust is discovered.
- The trust was not properly signed so it is not legally valid.
- The person who made the trust was not of sound mind and did not have the right mental capacity to understand what they were signing.
- There are indications that the trust was fraudulent (forged, for example).
- There is ambiguous language contained in the trust.
To contest a trust, you must file a lawsuit with the probate courts in the state the trust was written. To be successful, you need to supply tangible evidence such as medical records showing mental illness, a copy of a more current trust document, etc. This is not always an easy task and it may require some digging on your part. If you are not directly impacted by the trust (a beneficiary, an heir left out or a creditor who is owed money), you may not be able to dispute the trust.
If the court finds that you have supplied enough evidence and depending on the prior trust instruments and your relationship to the deceased, you may be able to inherit part of the estate. But you must be ready to invest time, money and resources to see the process through. An experienced trust attorney in Colorado can help you through this process.
The Denver trust dispute lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC can assess your claims and recommend the best course of action for your unique situation. Contact us today at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to start the conversation about disputing a trust.