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What If My Heggstad Petition is Denied? What You Need to Know

Heggstad petitions can be a useful tool for addressing missing assets in a Living Trust, but what if your petition is denied? Learn your options here.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

Despite all of their best efforts, an individual may fail to properly transfer all of their intended assets into a Trust. This can arise due to error, oversight, as well as extenuating circumstances. Luckily, California probate code allows any individual with interest in the Trust to file a Heggstad petition. They must provide sufficient evidence that a property was intended to be included in the Trust. If the petition is approved, then the Trustee can distribute that property as originally intended. However, what if the Heggstad petition is denied? Trust & Will explains.

If you are not familiar with the Heggstad petition, be sure to read “What is a Heggstad Petition?” first! Our guide explains the ins and outs of the Heggstad petition, such as what it is, how it works, and why you may want to use one. This article addresses what happens if the Heggstad petition is denied after it is filed.

Can Heggstad Petitions get denied? 

Yes, a Heggstad petition can get denied. Filing a Heggstad petition is not as simple as filling out a standard from. Instead, the petition must submit a number of documents and information to help prove that the disputed property was intended to be included in the Trust. 

The judge may deny the petition if there aren’t enough grounds for the petition to be made, or specific elements are not included in the filing. Further, the judge may simply find that there isn’t enough evidence proving that there was an original intent by the Trustor to include the disputed property in the Trust.

What do I need to file a Heggstad Petition?

The process of filing a Heggstad petition is unique for every case. There are no standard Heggstad petition notice requirements, and there is no such thing as a standard form to fill out. Rather, it is a collection of documents and information submitted to the court that are pertinent to the case. The intention is to prove the decedent’s original intent to include a property in the Trust in question. Because of this, not all Heggstad petitions will look the same.

In general, here are some of the documents and information typically compiled for a Heggstad petition:

  • A copy of the decedent’s Trust documents

  • The Schedule of Assets attached to the Trust

  • Relevant property documents, such as the deed and legal description

  • Information about the decedent, beneficiaries, and other heirs

  • A statement regarding your desired remedy to the situation  

To increase your likelihood of getting the Heggstad petition approved, it is typically recommended to work with an experienced probate attorney. Here, the attorney will review the documents and information you’ve gathered and provide counsel on what more can be included to strengthen your case. 

Why else would a Heggstad Petition get denied? 

There are numerous reasons for which the Heggstad petition could get denied. For starters, the petitioner may have chosen to submit the petition without any legal assistance. Because the process is complex, they could simply fail to make a case worthy of review or submit the correct documents.

Second, the court could find that there isn’t enough evidence to prove that the decedent intended to include a property in the Trust. Perhaps the property isn’t included in the schedule of assets, or the Trust language does not reasonably include all properties previously owned by the decedent. 

What happens if Heggstad Petition is denied?

If a Heggstad petition is denied, the court decision is not necessarily the end of the road. If your Heggstad petition is denied, then you can work with your attorneys to file a probate appeal. However, know that simply disagreeing with the judge’s decision does not hold enough grounds for an appeal. You should be able to argue that the judge made an error; perhaps they did not properly interpret or apply the law, or did not properly consider the evidence provided. You must also be able to prove that this error or misinterpretation negatively affected the outcome of the case.

It is best to consult your attorney if you have a strong case to appeal the decision before proceeding. In some cases, it may be recommended that you simply abide by the decision.

If this happens, then the disputed property is considered part of the decedent’s estate and must go through the traditional probate process.

Update your estate plan today 

Having your Heggstad petition denied can come at great disappointment. You’ve likely expended thousands of dollars in the process of filing the petition and obtaining legal counsel. Because of the denial, the property in question will not be included in the Trust and will have to go through probate. 

The availability of the Heggstad petition in California is a great thing. In the case that a property was unintentionally excluded from a Trust, then the beneficiaries have a pathway to remedy this mishappening. This is especially helpful since estate planning errors and oversight aren’t unheard of. However, getting your Heggstad petition approved is not guaranteed and should not be a fallback that you count on. 

If anything, we hope this served as a grave reminder of how critical it is to create a thorough and inclusive estate plan. Setting up your Trust through our online estate planning platform could never be easier! Our helpful guides and step-by-step instructions are designed to ensure that you don’t miss a single detail. In turn, you’ll have a bulletproof estate plan that will be sure to provide both you and your loved ones with great peace of mind. Not sure where to begin? Explore how much our Trust-based estate plan has to offer today. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement  options today!

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