Estate Challenge Burdens: Trusts, Non-Probate Transfers

Unlike an “ordinary” civil suit, the evidentiary burden in an estate contest based on incapacity is often on the defendant to prove that the signer had the requisite capacity.

In a lawsuit challenging a trust based on testamentary incapacity, the proponent of the document must establish due execution and that the person signing had sound mind. Cima v. Rhoades, 416 S.W.3d 320, 323-24 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013). As such, the party seeking to establish that a trust or trust amendment exists must prove that the settlor had adequate capacity. Rourner v. Wise, 446 S.W. 3d 242 (Mo. 2014).

Similarly, in a lawsuit challenging a beneficiary designation (e.g., transfer on death), the party requesting enforcement has the burden or proving the existence of a valid contract by clear and convincing evidence. J.H. v. Brown, 331 S.W.3d 692, 699 (Mo. Ct. App. 2011).

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