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Trusts only keep one out of court if they aren't contested

A previous post on this blog made reference in passing to the fact that having a trust does not necessarily keep a family or a person's financial affairs out of court. This remark calls for a little clarification, especially since many people in Scottsdale and throughout the greater Phoenix area may think the main reason someone would want a trust is to "avoid probate," that is, to keep the important and private manner of passing one's wealth out of the courtroom.

It is true that, when a trust is not challenged in any respect by anyone with an interest in doing so, then there is no need to go to a court to hand on the property in the trust. At worst, a person may have to validate, or "probate," a simple will. In this respect, trusts really do serve to avoid probate.

However, a trust cannot stop an interested person from contesting either the validity of the trust or challenging the interpretation of one of the trust's terms. That same person can also seek the removal of the trustee of the trust if he or she believes the trustee has not acted properly and in accord with Arizona law. All of these are grounds for filing a suit related to a trust, and, like any suits, they will involve attorneys, time, expense, and, if the matter does not settle, a hearing before a judge in an Arizona courtroom.

Trusts may avoid the routine probate process in the event everyone is getting along, but they do not stop estate litigation. As the previous post mentioned, estate litigation can happen even when people are very careful in estate planning, and the best course of action at that point may be to rely on the experience and knowledge of a qualified Arizona attorney with a track record of favorable resolving probate and trust disputes.

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