Trusts can minimize estate taxes and prevent the need for probate. Trusts also offer greater precision in wealth management and distribution, and can protect your legacy.
But given the human element involved in estates and trusts, disputes can arise when a trust is being settled, even if you’ve given proper care to creating a trust.
Some common examples of trust disputes include:
1. A trustee stealing or misusing money or property in the trust.
2. Questions over whether an amendment to a trust is legitimate.
3. Uncertainty regarding the running of a business, should the trust own a business.
What is a trust dispute, then?
Simply put: If you’re a trustee and family members accuse you of mismanaging the trust, you are involved in a trust dispute.
Or, if someone else is the trustee and that person is mismanaging or stealing assets (or accused of doing so), then you are (or probably should be) involved in a trust dispute.
I have experience in trust disputes. In one particularly lengthy trust dispute case, I represented a professional licensed fiduciary who was the trustee of a trust.
Even before her death, the woman who created the trust was aware that her two adult children had been fighting with each other over how her trust would be settled.
After her death, the younger sibling accused the older one of stealing money from the trust.
The older sibling accused the younger of convincing their mother to amend the trust after she had become incapacitated.
Both accused the other of elder abuse and wanted the other to be disinherited. The case was in a standoff for months. It progressed very slowly through the court system.
This case shows the mistakes people make when resolving trust disputes. These
1. Trying to settle disputes without the assistance of an experienced probate litigation attorney.
This area of law is very complicated and confusing – even to lawyers who do not work regularly in the area of probate disputes.
Statutes of limitations can be detrimental to resolving disputes if the disputes are not handled properly (and within the required time).
2. Not going to court when there is the possibility of a conflict of interest.
If you are both trustee and beneficiary, it can be tricky to avoid the appearance of acting in self-interest when dividing assets.
In such situations you should file a petition with the court asking for court guidance on how to distribute the assets and avoid conflict of interest.
The best way to avoid mistakes when navigating a trust dispute is to enlist the support of a skilled probate litigation attorney.
With the assistance of a qualified attorney, you may be able to settle an affair outside of court, saving you time and money.
Either way, an experienced attorney will help you prevent, negotiate, settle and litigate disputes to avoid costly losses.
If you have any questions about resolving trust disputes, I’d love to help. Give us a call.