Tag Archives: litigation attorney

  • 0

Resolving Disputes Involving Trusts

Tags : 

 

Resolving Disputes Involving TrustsTrusts are legal arrangements in which someone holds property for the benefit of someone else.

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
include:

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.

Listen to the Podcast


  • 1

Probate Disputes: How to Deal with Estate Conflict After Someone has Died

Tags : 

How to Deal with Estate Conflict After Someone has DiedSettling an estate after a loved one’s death is a complex process.  The process can be even more challenging if detrimental disagreements and conflict arise among the various people who believe they are entitled to an inheritance from the estate. The court offers a recourse to resolve such probate disputes.

Here are five of the most common probate disputes that arise after someone has died:

  1. Who should be in control of a deceased person’s property? (In other words, who should be named the Executor or Personal Representative?)
  2. Has a trustee or personal representative done something wrong? Or has that person failed to do what was required?
  3. Did someone do something wrong prior to the person’s death? (For example, did someone acting as a guardian or conservator or agent under a power of attorney do something wrong?  Perhaps a trustee helped himself or herself to money held in trust?)
  4. Who should get the property of a deceased person?
  5. Is the last will and testament valid or was it forged? Or was the deceased person pressured to sign it?

The most common probate disputes arise when the personal representative or executor of an estate is doing a poor job of fulfilling executory responsibilities.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example. When Sue dies, her son Richard is appointed as personal representative. Instead of selling Sue’s house and splitting the proceeds between his siblings (as Sue’s will specifies), Richard moves in and takes up permanent residence. He never sells the house or distributes the proceeds to the rest of the family.

To complicate matters further, Sue has had a mortgage on the home and a loan on her Buick. Her will had stated that these assets – the home, the car – were to be sold with the money from the sale distributed equally between her children, but Richard begins making the payments to the bank so the bank never complains.  Richard doesn’t take very good care of the house and car, and at some point, Richard loses his job and stops making the payments to the bank.  Now the value of the house and car have gone down and the bank is threatening to foreclose on the house and repossess the car.

Richard’s sister Beth has had enough and doesn’t want to see their mother’s legacy squandered by her brother’s failure to live up to his responsibilities as personal representative. Beth calls the police to get help evicting her brother, but the police wont’ get involved in such cases, except to prevent physical violence.

This is where probate court and a probate litigation attorney can help.

But probate should be brought in quickly. One of the biggest mistakes people make in situations similar to this is waiting too long to hire an attorney. Delayed action can result in disappearing assets.

Another common mistake is hiring an attorney who has little or no experience in probate litigation. An attorney without direct experience in resolving probate disputes won’t be able to advise you properly and may in fact leave you with the impression that nothing can be done.

Dealing with disputes when settling an estate can be quite tricky. Finding common ground in any situation may be extremely difficult without the help of a qualified lawyer. If you’re dealing with a complex situation, don’t attempt to handle the situation without the help of a skilled probate litigation attorney.

Probate attorneys do more than provide legal information. They will serve as your legal “coach” and will help you to arrive at the best possible outcome.

And working with an attorney who knows how to solve general probate disputes will give you confidence that your loved one’s estate will be handled properly.

Listen to the Podcast


  • 0

What’s a Probate Emergency?

Tags : 

What's a Probate EmergencyThings can get out of hand, even under the best circumstances, when caring for a loved one or settling an estate.

Probate court helps families arrange care for loved ones who are aging or incapacitated. After a loved one passes away, probate court helps a family sort through and settle their affairs.

It generally takes many months, sometimes more, to settle a case, depending on where you live and the complexity of your situation. Sometimes, however, families need immediate action from the court.

Here are a few examples of emergency probate situations that could require immediate legal intervention from probate court.
• If an elderly person is on the point of being evicted because bills haven’t been paid. A judge can appoint a temporary conservator to help resolve the situation until a permanent conservator can be appointed.

• If a person is not receiving necessary medical treatment for a life-threatening condition. The court can be petitioned to appoint a temporary conservatory.

• If assets are being stolen from the estate or trust of someone who has passed away, a judge can appoint a special administrator or special trustee.

Although some people feel that the police should be called in to resolve an emergency probate situation, the police have no jurisdiction in civil matters involving a guardianship, conservatorship, trust dispute or a decedent’s estate.

What people can do is provide evidence showing a high likelihood of imminent harm or danger unless the court acts immediately. For example, in a situation involving guardianships or conservatorships, you must present the judge with a physician’s note that clearly states, “An immediate guardianship is necessary.”

It’s essential to provide sufficient evidence to prevent a dismissal of any petition. This is where it’s important to have an attorney working with you. Most people who try to represent themselves to establish an emergency situation don’t know enough about the complexities of probate law to provide the judge or commissioner sufficient supporting information.

Here are a few of the other common mistakes people make in probate emergencies:

• Doing nothing after being told by the police the probate emergency is a civil matter.

• Taking away an elderly parent without letting anyone else know, to prevent the parent being placed into a nursing home you didn’t approve of. This can be considered a criminal action.

• Securing valuables from the decedent’s estate to protect them

A probate emergency situation arises when there is immediate danger, immediate harm to either a person, to property or the trust. You must be able to prove to the court that your situation requires immediate action. A lawyer can help with this to ensure the time response that is critical to helping you receive the assistance you need. You don’t have to navigate the waters of probate alone. We can help.

Listen to the Podcast


  • 0

Solving Disputes Involving Trusts

Tags : 

Solving Disputes Involving TrustsDisputes are not uncommon during the administration of a trust. But they can grow into something devastating both financially and emotionally.

Such disputes can become so fierce they can tear a family apart. But if you know of some of the more common trust disputes and how you may prevent them, you’ll go a long way toward ensuring a relatively smooth trust-administration process.

Disputes over trusts arise rise from three basic issues:

  1. Trustee mismanagement. It is not uncommon for a trustee to make mistakes when administering a trust—these mistakes may be intentional or unintentional. A trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the interest of the trust and the beneficiaries.
  2. Improper trust creation or amendment due to settlor capacity or undue influence. A settlor is the legal term for a person who settles property, through trust, for the benefit of beneficiaries. Settlor capacity refers to whether the settlor was of sound mind and legal age when creating the trust (which can lead to a dispute about improper trust creation). Undue influence occurs when a relative or other party manipulates the settlor to change asset distribution in a trust or will.
  3. Disagreement over how a trust was written. Sometimes a beneficiary wants or needs assets to be distributed differently from what was specified in the trust. Perhaps the trust requires that the funds be held in a trust rather than being distributed outright. A disagreement over disbursement can lead to disputes.

Depending on the nature of a trust dispute, you have a few options. One is to go to court. This might be best when the other parties involved are unwilling to compromise or work together to find a peaceful resolution. Going to court can be time-consuming and expensive, as well as emotionally draining.

Another way to resolve trust disputes is to negotiate a settlement. Negotiation requires that both parties being willing to work together to find a mutually beneficial solution.

This can be challenging in situations where emotions are running high. But in my work with trusts, I’ve applied some basic principles that help clients neutralize conflict in order to avoid a lengthy court battle:

  1. Hire an attorney upfront. This seems self-evident, but many people are afraid of what they see as the cost of an attorney. But a qualified attorney can help parties prevent a loss of funds and an escalation of tension. It may be necessary to hire a lawyer to protect your inheritance. But hiring an attorney for assistance in trust disputes can be vital to preventing further trust mismanagement or other compromises to assets. Be aware that this can change the dynamics of your relationship with the other party involved in the dispute. But you will also have someone who can act on your behalf, and spare you the emotional interchanges that might arise with others in the dispute.
  2. Realize that the person with whom you’re in conflict is also human. Even someone who may have abused trust, failed to perform his or her fiduciary duties or even has broken the law is, after all, human. This person likely feels justified in his or her position. It helps to try to have a conversation to understand the other person and resolve difficulties.
  3. Change your perspective. Consider for a moment the other person and view the situation from his or her perspective. How does that change the way you will make decisions?

At our firm, we approach settling disputes by presenting facts and letting the facts win the case. We have no interest in litigating for the sake of gamesmanship or bravado. It’s not necessary and it’s not in the best interests of our clients.

If you or your family needs assistance with resolving trust disputes or other probate issues, we’d love to help. Give us a call.

Listen to the Podcast


Contact Form

Fields marked with an * are required