In Florida, a trust can be an important estate planning tool. In some situations, however, the validity of a trust may be challenged on certain grounds. If you are questioning the validity of a Florida trust or will, you can obtain reliable advice from a West Palm Beach estate litigation lawyer. Attorneys Stephen J. Press and Jessica Mishali provide legal representation to people who are challenging the validity of a trust as well as those defending against a trust contest action. We have the experience and knowledge to address your concerns and inform you of legal options that may be available in your situation.Overview of Florida Trust Contests
Some trusts include testamentary provisions that distribute the assets and property of the person or persons who created the trust, known as the grantor or settlor, after their death. The validity of a trust may be challenged through a trust contest action. The contestant, or the person who filed the action, has the burden of establishing the grounds for invalidity. The legal grounds for contesting a trust are similar to the grounds in a will contest action. If the trust contest is successful and the trust is declared partially or wholly invalid, the testamentary distributions provided under the trust may no longer apply.Improper Execution of the Trust
The first step in evaluating the legitimacy of a trust is whether the trust was executed properly. Florida law provides legal requirements for the creation of trusts and wills. Unless the trust is executed by the grantor with the same formalities required for the execution of a will, the testamentary provisions included in the trust are not valid. Due to changes in Florida law throughout the years, these legal requirements may vary depending on the date the trust was created. To form a valid trust or will in the present day, the grantor must be at least eighteen years of age and possess the capacity to establish a trust. The trust document must also be signed by two witnesses and the grantor, and the witnesses must observe the grantor sign the document. If the trust is not created with these legal formalities, its validity may be attacked on technical grounds.Undue Influence, Fraud, and Other Grounds
The testamentary provisions in a trust may be void if the trust was procured by undue influence, fraud, duress, or mistake. Undue influence may arise when the grantor’s mind was so controlled by the pressure and persuasion of outside influences that he or she did not act voluntarily in establishing the terms of the trust, but was subject to the will of another person. In some cases, undue influence may be found if a beneficiary with a substantial benefit under the trust also possessed a confidential relationship with the grantor and was active in the creation of the trust. While the grounds of fraud and duress are similar, each legal ground requires the trust contestant to prove a different set of elements to succeed in a trust contest action. Other grounds to challenge a trust may be that the grantor lacked the mental capacity to create a trust, or that the grantor suffered from an insane delusion or incompetency. Discussing your situation with a trusts and estates attorney can help you identify the legal grounds for a trust contest action.Contact a West Palm Beach Lawyer Regarding a Trust Contest Action
Trust contest actions may be complicated, but a qualified probate attorney can guide you through the litigation and protect your interests. Our West Palm Beach attorneys are available to represent people in areas including Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Jupiter, Wellington, Davie, Hollywood, Coral Springs, Hallandale Beach, Stuart, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Plantation, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, Palm City, and Jensen Beach, as well as Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin Counties. Request a free consultation regarding a probate or family law matter by calling (561) 833-2772 or contacting the Law Offices of Stephen J. Press online.