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Trust Contest

Pittsburgh Trust Contest Attorneys

40+ Years of Helping Clients Plan for Their Futures in Armstrong, Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Butler, Westmoreland Counties

If you are looking for a trust contest attorney in Pittsburgh, Herb & Winters Law is the right law firm for you. For over 40 years, Herb & Winters Law has proudly served the Greater Pittsburgh Area with trust contest matters. Our Pittsburgh trust contest attorneys have experience defending trust contests and prosecuting trust contests, so whether you are defending a trust contest or are thinking about challenging a trust via a trust contest – schedule a consultation with Herb & Winters Law today. 

Call (412)533-4821 or contact Herb & Winters Law online to schedule a consultation so you can get answers to your questions about trust contests. 

Contesting a Trust in Pittsburgh

For a trust contest in Pittsburgh, the party challenging the trust generally has the burden of proof. 

During a Pittsburgh trust contest, a trust may be contested based on, but not limited to, any of the following grounds: 

  1. Lack of Capacity: A settlor (person who had trust written up) must have the appropriate mental capacity in order for a trust to be valid. In order for a revocable trust to be valid, the settlor must: (1) be able to understand the extent of their assets; (2) be able to understand the nature of their assets; and (3) be aware of the parties to whom the assets will be distributed. If a settlor lacks capacity, then a trust can be declared void. A higher standard may be applied with irrevocable trusts, which is more difficult to prove than with revocable trusts. 
  2. Undue Influence: A trust can be declared void due to undue influence. Generally, the easiest way to prove undue influence is by proving three elements: (1) weakened intellect on the part of the settlor; (2) person who is proponent of trust received a substantial benefit; and (3) the proponent of the challenge trust stood in what is called a confidential relationship with the settlor. 
  3. Fraud: A trust can be declared void on the basis of fraud. Fraud can present itself in multiple different ways. Fraud could be committed by someone who makes fraudulent statements to the settlor to get them to change their current trust to make a new trust. Fraud could be committed by someone who presents a trust to the settlor (who didn’t actually read it) and the person presenting the trust tells the settlor that it says one thing, but in reality the trust said something completely different. Fraud could also be committed where a person presents what is actually a trust to the settlor for signature, but the person presenting this trust tells the settlor it is a different type of document to trick them into signing the trust. 
  4. Forgery: A trust can be declared void on the basis of forgery. Forgery can occur when someone fakes the signature of the settlor on the trust. There are certain statutory exceptions where someone can sign on behalf of the settlor if directed by the settlor and other requirements are satisfied. However, if someone fakes the signature of the settlor without the settlor’s direction, such constitutes forgery. 
  5. Improper Execution: A trust must be properly signed by the settlor. If this requirement is not met, then the trust could be declared void. 
  6. Consent to Terminate Trust or Order of Court: If certain parties agree to termination a trust, then it is possible to have the trust terminated and the assets distributed. Moreover, under certain limited circumstances, it is possible to ask that a judge modify the trust through an Order of Court. 
  7. Discovery of Later Amendment to Trust: If you discover an amendment to the trust, then if you can prove the amendment to be valid – such would apply. 
  8. Discovery of Revocation of Revocable Trust: If you discover that the revocable trust was revoked during the Decedent’s lifetime, then this revocation – if valid – would control and the trust would be invalid.

If you have questions about a trust contestant, then you should not delay and be sure to call a Pittsburgh trust contest attorney from Herb & Winters Law today! 

Who can Contest a Trust in Pittsburgh? 

Persons who may contest a trust include, but are not necessarily limited to: 

  1. Family Members: Family members that would be entitled to receive a share in the Decedent’s property (the person who died) if the trust was set aside (and would pass via the intestacy statute in the absence of a will). Our Pittsburgh trust contest attorneys can help you determine whether you qualify to challenge a trust as an intestate heir under the Pennsylvania intestacy statute. 
  2. Beneficiaries Under Will: If setting aside a trust would result in the trust property passing to a valid will, then the beneficiaries of this will could challenge the trust. 
  3. Beneficiary Under Trust: A trust beneficiary may have standing to challenge a trust if they would ultimately receive a larger share in the property by setting all or part of the trust aside (which could include challenge amendments to the trust). 

To determine whether you have a chance at viably challenging a trust, please contact the trust contest attorneys of Herb & Winters Law. 

How do you Protect a Trust in a Trust Contest? 

  1. Circumstances of Execution: Normally, the persons that where present when the Settlor signed the Trust. Usually, this will include an attorney (the drafter of the trust), a notary, any persons who signed to witnessing the signatures, and any family/or friends who may have been present. These persons can also provide testimony as to how the Settlor seemed that day and their interactions with the Settlor. 
  2. Defending Elements of Undue InfluenceWhile in undue influence claims it is the initial burden of the Petitioner (person filing the trust contest) to establish weakened intellect, any evidence that you present that shows lack of weakened intellect (goes to mental state) – the better – as it is possible for the burden to be shifted to the you (the person defending the trust) to show an absence of weakened intellect. If the Petitioner fails to show weakened intellect or you disprove weakened intellect (if the burden of proof is shifted to you), then not only should you prevail on the undue influence claim but also the lack of capacity claim (because lack of capacity is more difficult to prove than weakened intellect for undue influence). Medical records, testimony, proof of business transactions, and any other evidence to show Decedent’s mental state. For undue influence, you also look to see whether the substantial benefit and confidential relationships are satisfied are not. Petitioner must prove all three to have any chance at prevailing. 
  3. Defending Elements of Lack of Capacity: Generally, revocable trusts require proving lack of capacity in the same way as will contests. Showing someone has the capacity to conduct business is a harder to prove than to show someone had capacity to execute a revocable trust. As a result, if you can show the Decedent was engaging in business transactions (paying bills, writing checks, etc.), then this will present some good evidence. Remember, capacity to execute a revocable trust is a lower standard to satisfy than showing someone had capacity to conduct business transactions. You still will want to rely upon medical evidence (testimony and records), any eyewitness testimony, and any other evidence indicative of mental state that you can. 
  4. Does Petitioner have Standing? If the Petitioner lacks standing to file a trust contest, then it is possible to win the entire litigation on those grounds. 
  5. Statute of Limitations: Was a contest filed within the prescribed time deadlines? 

These are just some of the ways that you might defend a trust contest in Pittsburgh. Should Herb & Winters Law serve as your trust contest attorneys, then near the beginning of the litigation – we come up with a defense strategy in how we believe the trust would best be defended based upon the facts available. Be proactive, do not delay, and call a trust contest attorney with Herb & Winters Law today. 

Is there any other type of Trust Litigation? 

Yes, there are other types of Trust Litigation. Please click Trust Litigation to go to our page that discusses other types of Trust Litigation

Call our Pittsburgh Trust Contest Attorneys Near You

In short, Pittsburgh trust contest attorneys at Herb & Winters Law can assist you with your trust contest. Be proactive and schedule a consultation today with the Pittsburgh trust contest attorneys at Herb & Winters Law today, so that you can start getting answers to your legal questions. 

Call (412)533-4821 or contact Herb & Winters Law online to schedule a consultation so you can get answers to your questions about trust contests.    


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