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Understanding Estate and Trust Litigation

Estate and trust litigation can arise when disputes occur regarding the administration or distribution of an estate or trust. These disputes can be emotionally and financially challenging, requiring experienced legal guidance to navigate effectively. Our attorneys have seen firsthand the complexities involved in these matters and are committed to helping individuals protect their rights.  Numerous types of lawsuits can arise in this field of law. Here are just a few examples of what individuals may encounter:

  

Disclaimer: The information provided is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.



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Undue Influence: This common issue occurs when someone pressures a vulnerable individual to influence their decisions regarding their estate or trust. More simply stated, it is when someone convinces the testator to change their Will, ownership registrations, or beneficiary designations to favor the wrongdoer to the detriment of the testator's intended beneficiaries. This can lead to unfair outcomes and harm to beneficiaries. If you suspect that undue influence has played a role in the administration of an estate or trust, you should seek legal advice promptly to protect the estate.

 

Fiduciary Theft or Misappropriation: Fiduciaries (such as trustees, executors, and agents under Powers of Attorney) are entrusted with managing assets for the benefit of others. When a fiduciary breaches this trust by stealing or misusing assets, it can have serious consequences. If you believe that a fiduciary has acted improperly, it is crucial to take action to protect your interests.

 

Breach of Fiduciary Duty: Fiduciaries are required to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries.  Suppose the beneficiaries believe that the fiduciary is failing to follow the guidelines in the legal document. In that case, they can bring a lawsuit to force the fiduciary to follow the document or be removed and replaced by someone who will. Some claims can be brought by non-beneficiaries, such as creditors or other persons having a potential interest in the Estate or Trust. If they believe the executor’s actions are harming the estate, they could have standing to bring a claim.

 

Objections to Accountings: Executors prepare financial accountings that detail the estate’s assets and debts. Beneficiaries and creditors can object to an accounting if they suspect inaccuracies or misleading information.

 

Interpretation of Language: Legal documents such as Wills and Trusts are often meticulously crafted, yet even seemingly minor details, like the placement of a comma, can lead to vastly different interpretations. For instance, consider the phrase, "I leave a sum of $50,000 to my children." Does this mean each child receives $50,000 or is the total amount divided among all the children? What if one of the children died; should their share be distributed to their estate? In such cases, the interpretation of the document may require judicial intervention to resolve ambiguities and ensure fair distribution. Attorneys who practice exclusively in estate law understand that these nuances can be crucial to ensure your wishes are accurately reflected and upheld.

 

These types of issues require careful consideration and legal expertise to resolve effectively. If you are facing a dispute involving an estate or trust, do not delay seeking legal advice. There may be statutes of limitation that limit the time you have to bring a lawsuit, or the wrongdoer might destroy the property, leaving no recovery for you. Our firm is dedicated to helping our clients understand these complex matters and protect their rights. If you want more information specific to your situation, you can schedule a consultation to meet with one of our attorneys to help resolve your estate and trust litigation issues.

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