Spotting Red Flags in Trust Contests and Identifying Fraudulent Activities

The landscape of trust contests can be complex, and at times, overshadowed by fraudulent activities that can leave beneficiaries with less than their rightful share. In these scenarios, knowing the red flags that hint at potential foul play is crucial. In this article, we’ll delve into how to spot irregularities in trust contests and identify signs of fraudulent activity.

Understanding Trust Contests

A trust contest occurs when a beneficiary or potential beneficiary challenges the validity of a trust or certain provisions within it. Common grounds for contesting a trust include allegations of undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, duress, or improper execution. However, not all trust contests stem from genuine concerns – some may be fueled by disgruntled beneficiaries or fraudulent intentions.

Red Flags in Trust Contests

While trust contests can arise for legitimate reasons, certain signs might indicate a potential for dishonest behavior. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • Sudden Changes: Sudden or frequent changes to the trust, especially when made shortly before the settlor’s death or during a period of illness, can be a cause for concern.
  • Exclusion of Family Members: If close family members are unexpectedly excluded or their share in the trust is significantly reduced, it may indicate foul play.
  • Unusual Beneficiaries: The appearance of previously unknown individuals or entities as beneficiaries could suggest potential fraud or undue influence.

Identifying Fraudulent Activities

Trust-related fraud often manifests in deceptive practices that rob rightful beneficiaries of their entitled assets. Here are some indicators of potential fraudulent activity:

  • Lack of Transparency: A trustee refusing to disclose essential information about the trust assets, financial transactions, or changes to the trust can be a warning sign.
  • Misappropriation of Trust Assets: If the trustee uses trust assets for personal gain, or if assets are inexplicably decreasing or disappearing, it could indicate fraudulent activities.
  • Failure to Follow Trust Provisions: A trustee who does not adhere to the terms of the trust, fails to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries, or neglects their fiduciary duties, may be engaged in fraudulent behavior.

How to Address Suspected Fraud

If you suspect fraudulent activity, it’s essential to take action promptly. Gather all relevant documentation and evidence, and consider seeking advice from a probate attorney experienced in trust contests and fraud. They can help you understand your rights and the best course of action.

Understanding Your Rights as a Beneficiary

Beneficiaries have the right to accurate, timely information about the trust and its administration. This includes the right to a copy of the trust document, regular accounting of the trust assets, and to be kept informed about any significant decisions affecting the trust.


The world of trust contests and trust-related fraud can be daunting. However, by staying vigilant and understanding the red flags, beneficiaries can help ensure that their rights are upheld, and their inheritance protected. If you find yourself in a complex trust contest or suspect fraudulent activity, remember that the law is on your side, and professional legal help is available to guide you through these challenging circumstances.