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When can you contest someone's living trust?

Many people choose to create living trusts when they develop their estate plans. They can place many of their assets, including their home and bank accounts, in the trust. There are numerous advantages to having a living trust. Chief among them is that it makes your estate easier and quicker to settle after you're gone.

Usually, living trusts (also called inter vivos trusts") are revocable. That means the person who established the trust (the grantor) can change or even terminate it while they're alive.

Typically, the grantor is also the trustee of the living trust during their lifetime. They designate a successor trustee to administer it after they pass away. The grantor designates how the assets in the living trust will be distributed upon their death by the successor trustee.

However, what happens if the beneficiaries (or people who think they should be beneficiaries) dispute the trust? Can they take legal action? There are only a few situations that may warrant a court challenge of a living trust.

You may challenge it if you believe someone exerted undue influence on the grantor when they developed the trust, or if they later convinced the grantor to change it for their benefit. To succeed in challenging a trust, you'll have to prove that the grantor was in a mental or emotional state that made them vulnerable to such influence. You'll also have to prove that the person exerting the influence knew what they were doing and intended to undermine the grantor's wishes.

Even if you don't think someone exerted undue influence on the grantor, if you believe they weren't mentally competent to execute or make changes to a trust, you may challenge it on that basis. This type of challenge will require medical evidence or testimony that the grantor wasn't able to comprehend what assets they had, who their beneficiaries were or how the trust worked.

You may also challenge a living trust if you believe the trustee has breached their fiduciary duties. Perhaps you believe they haven't distributed assets as designated or took assets for themselves, for example.

If you believe you have grounds to contest a loved one's living trust, will or other documents, it's best to seek the advice of an experienced Tennessee estate planning attorney. They can determine whether you have a case and, if so, help you move forward with it.

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