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By: Scott Grossman on October 26th, 2017

Riverside Probate Attorney on Duress: Why Trusts Get Attacked, Part 2

Losing a loved one is painful enough without extenuating circumstances. When you are unsure if the way your passed loved one ended up distributing his or her estate sincerely matches his or her intentions, it creates additional layers of anger and uncertainty.

In the second part of our three part series dealing with issues we see in California trusts that frequently lead to contests and litigation, we’ll talk about duress.

What is duress?

Duress is using the threat of harm, physically or financially, to force someone to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. 

In making a trust or a will, people are at times subject to duress. This means threats or coercion into things they do not agree with. Some of the forms of duress include:

  • Physical duress – bullying into the terms by a threat or threats of violence
  • Economic duress – the threat of ungrounded legal action or having financial support or services crucial to one’s well-being cut off
  • Withholding of goods – refusing to return someone’s property until they agree to the contract in question

Examples of Threats/Duress

To get the decedent to agree to their terms, family members threaten things like:

  • Fire the testator’s caregiver
  • Send the testator to a nursing home
  • Cut off contact with grandchildren
  • Refuse to help with day-to-day functions
  • Take away something that provides a degree of independence, like a scooter
  • Hurt the testator physically
  • File a lawsuit that will take all the money anyway

In cases where there is an accusation that the trust has been influenced by duress, the plaintiff only needs to prove that a threat was made and that the threat was a factor in the execution of the trust. From there, it’s up to the defense to demonstrate that threat did not affect the decedent’s decisions on the trust.

As with most charges leading to trust litigation, you’ll need strong evidence to back up an allegation of duress. Failure to do so may leave you subject to lawsuits and penalties. Therefore, the option of consulting with a Southern California trust lawyer before making your suspicions known to anyone else involved in the case is available to you.

Are you a trustee or beneficiary involved in a case where duress may have been a factor in a loved one’s estate trust? Luckily, the Riverside probate attorneys at The Grossman Law Firm offer probate litigation, trust litigation, will contests, and probate services. To make an appointment for your free 30-minute case review with one of our attorneys, call 888-443-6590 or click here to contact us.

Also request your copy of Scott Grossman’s must-read book: The Ultimate Guide to California Trust and Probate Litigation: How Sons and Daughters Get Their Rightful Inheritance from Their Parents’ Wills and Trusts, which is available to you FREE.