Trusts can be an effective way to bequeath property and assets to loved ones while avoiding the stress and cost of the public probate process. However, there may be instances where a trust might be challenged in court. If you are considering contesting a trust in Illinois, it’s essential to understand that there are certain criteria that must be met. In addition, if the trust contains a no-contest clause, it’s critical to carefully consider whether it is in your best interests to challenge the instrument before doing so.
Here are five things you should know about challenging a trust in Illinois:
To challenge a trust, you must have legal standing. This means you have a financial interest in the outcome of the court’s decision regarding the matter. Typically, an individual with standing will fall into one of two categories — they must either be a trust beneficiary or an heir of the decedent. Beneficiaries are those who are specifically named in the instrument. An heir is someone who would be legally entitled to inherit property from the decedent, absent a valid will or trust.
Even if you have the legal standing necessary to contest a trust, you cannot simply challenge the instrument because you are unhappy with its terms. You must show that there is a specific legal ground upon which the trust may be deemed invalid. For instance, you must prove one of the following:
To demonstrate one of the above legal grounds in order to invalidate a trust, you must be able to present adequate evidence. A judge will consider witness statements concerning the settlor’s mental state and any other relevant evidence that supports your position.
When it comes to contesting a trust in Illinois, you only have a limited amount of time to do so. By law, you must commence a proceeding to contest the validity of the trust within two years of the settlor’s passing or six months from the date the trustee sends notice to the trust beneficiaries — whichever comes first. Failure to challenge a trust before the applicable statute of limitations expires can result in your being barred from bringing an action.
It’s important to be aware whether the trust you are seeking to challenge contains a no-contest clause. These types of clauses mean that if a beneficiary brings an action in court to challenge the trust, they would ultimately forfeit their inheritance — or a large portion of it — if the contest was unsuccessful. A settlor may use this type of clause to discourage beneficiaries from contesting a trust so that their wishes can be carried out in the way in which they had intended. But in the event fraud was discovered in connection with the execution of the trust, a no-contest clause may be deemed inapplicable and unenforceable.
One of the benefits of creating a trust is that they generally avoid court and public probate proceedings. However, when a trust is contested, it must go through the court process. Contesting a trust may involve lengthy and costly judicial proceedings — and a trial if the matter does not settle. The legal proceedings for challenging a trust are commenced by filing a petition with the probate court in the applicable county that states facts which would invalidate the trust if established.
If you are the beneficiary of a trust or an heir with legal standing who is considering raising a challenge to the trust instrument, it’s crucial to consult with a skillful attorney. A knowledgeable trust litigation attorney can best evaluate the facts of your situation and determine whether it is in your best interests to pursue litigation. Located in Rolling Meadows, Litico Law Group provides high-quality representation throughout Illinois for trust contests and trust litigation matters. We welcome you to contact us by filling out our online form or call 847-307-5942 to schedule a consultation to learn how we can assist you.