Litigation occurs when a legal challenge is brought forth against the validity or execution of a trust or estate planning document. Disputes are usually between heirs, but can also arise between heirs and the executor or trustee.
Disputes of this nature can be notably complicated. They often require multiple separate, but intertwined legal actions. Because of the countless issues that could arise during litigation, it is important to find an attorney with broad-based knowledge and expertise in estate planning, trusts, and probate law.
Common and sound reasons for hiring a trust litigation attorney:
Allegations of fraud, coercion, or undue influence: It is illegal to coerce, force, or trick people into signing estate planning documents. If some form of manipulation caused your inheritance to shrink, or left you out entirely, a trust litigation attorney can help. Accusations like these require witnesses. If proven in court, these situations can lead to criminal charges such as fraud, larceny, and elder abuse.
Forgery: Sometimes people forge signatures. It sounds far-fetched, but never underestimate the lines some folks will cross for money. Like the above scenarios forgery is a crime and carries legal repercussions.
Problems with a person’s mental state: Sometimes people are cut out of an inheritance during a period of time when the testator (or professional creating the trust) lacked the “testamentary capacity” to understand the ramifications of their decisions. Dementia, other neurological or memory-affecting diseases, and intoxication are all grounds to challenge an individual’s testamentary capacity. These cases require witnesses and medical records.
Breach of trust by the fiduciary: If the executor or trustee fails to communicate in a timely way, mismanages funds, self-deals, commingles assets, engages in questionable accounting practices, or has a conflict of interest, legal counsel can help protect the trust and enforce it’s faithful execution. The rules and repercussions for breach of trust vary by state. At the very least, the person can be removed. In cases with missing funds, they can be held accountable.
Another heir is challenging the trust: Family quarrels over inheritances can get downright ugly. If you learn that a relative has acquired an attorney and intends to challenge a trust or enter litigation in a way that could diminish your inheritance, you should consider getting an attorney of your own. In court, the best case wins. You’ll want someone who represents your interests.
One or both parties might become motivated to reach a settlement before mounting legal expenses outweigh any expected gains from litigation. A savvy attorney is mindful of the cost-benefit piece of both your case and your opponent’s case. They can help you measure if or when the time comes to consider moving towards a settlement.
There are some situations in life that demand getting legal expertise. Threats to the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next is one of them. If there is a problem with a trust in which you are a beneficiary, or if you are concerned about the way a loved one’s estate plan is being interpreted, contact the expert team at The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman today.