My grandmother created a revocable trust in 1999, naming my mom as trustee. Mom was to get 90% of whatever was left upon grandmother's death, w/ remaining 10% to be split 4 ways among myself, my brother & our 2 cousins. In 3/2012, grandmother changed the trust to my mom being the sole beneficiary and trustee. Grandmother passed in 7/2012 and estate atty. notified myself, brother and cousins that we were no longer beneficiaries and that mom gets everything. My cousins are upset that my mom is the only beneficiary. The letter from the atty. says the trust became irrevocable upon my grandmother's death and no changes can be made. Do the cousins have any legal standing to challenge the trust?
Estate Planning Attorney
The cousins have standing to challenge the validity of the amendment removing them as beneficiaries, but there would have to be some ground for invalidating that instrument, such as that your grandmother lacked capacity at the time she executed it or was unduly influenced to amend the trust. I'm assuming the letter from the attorney to which you refer was a notice under Probate Code section 16061.7. If that's the case, you and/or your cousins only have a very short amount of time within which to contest the amendment (60 days from the date the trustee provided you with the terms of the trust or 120 days from the date the notice was served, whichever is later). You should consult a trust litigation attorney to discuss the facts and consider your options. Depending on the value of the trust estate and the percentages that you were set to receive under the original trust, it may simply not be worth it for you from a financial standpoint to pursue a contest.
This response is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created as a result of this response.
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Estate Planning Attorney
Attorney Kaster's answer is right on point. Your question is simply put, can the trust be challenged; the answer is yes. However, just because the answer is "yes," it does not mean that such a challenge would be successful or worthwhile. As mentioned, you must consider whether you or your cousins believe (and may be able to prove) that either your grandmother lacked the capacity to make changes to her trust or she was the subject of undue influence which caused her to modify her trust. In either situation, you must also weigh the value of the 10% share of the estate versus the cost of challenging it.
Should you decide to proceed, the clock is ticking, you should contact an attorney immediately to consult on the matter.
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