When someone creates a trust, they essentially put their faith in someone else to handle their financial affairs. The person appointed to manage the trust is known as the trustee. The trustee has a duty to act in the best interests of the trust’s beneficiaries. This means that they must consider the needs and wants of the beneficiaries when making decisions about how to distribute the assets of the trust.
The trustee is not required to disclose every decision they make to the beneficiaries. However, they are required to provide a general description of the trust assets, the income and expenses of the trust, and any distributions that have been made to the beneficiaries. The trustee is also required to disclose any material transactions that have taken place between the trust and the trustee or any of their related entities. The purpose of disclosure is to allow the beneficiaries to monitor the trustee’s activities and ensure that they are acting in accordance with the wishes of the person who created the trust.
When a trust conflict arises and leads to litigation, the beneficiaries have the right to petition the court for an order of discovery. This order allows the beneficiaries to obtain information about the trust and its assets. This information can be used to determine whether the trustee is acting in accordance with their fiduciary duty. By working with a knowledgeable trust litigation lawyer who has years of experience, you can ensure that you have fully protected your interests as a beneficiary of a trust.
What Does “Discovery” Mean in a Trust Context?
The term “discovery” is often used in the legal context, and it has a specific meaning, depending on the type of case. In the trust context, discovery refers to the process of obtaining information about the trust and its assets. This includes learning about the trustees, beneficiaries, and any other interested parties. The purpose of discovery is to make sure that the trust is administered properly and that all interested parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities. This phase is also necessary during litigation to allow all parties to understand the claims and defenses being asserted.
What Are the Common Forms of Discovery in Trust Litigation?
The discovery process can be complicated and time-consuming. It often requires the parties to exchange documents and other information. The most common forms of discovery in trust litigation are either written or oral and include:
- Interrogatories. These are written questions that must be answered in a certain time frame and are directed to the parties involved in the litigation. Written answers must be returned and sworn to under penalty of perjury.
- Requests for Production of Documents. These requests may include certain financial records, communications between the parties, or any other relevant information.
- Requests for Admission. These are requests that the other party admits or denies certain facts. This can be a powerful tool to help streamline the discovery process.
- Subpoenas. A subpoena is a request to produce documents or testimony from a third party. This can be used to compel witnesses to testify or to produce documents as evidence.
- Depositions. A deposition is a process of questioning a witness under oath. This can be used to question parties and witnesses about their knowledge of the trust and the litigation. These are in-person interviews, and the transcript can be used as evidence in court.
These common forms of discovery can be used to obtain the information you need to protect your interests as a beneficiary of a trust. If you are involved in a trust dispute, it is important to work with an experienced trust litigation lawyer who can help you navigate the process and protect your rights.
What Is Not Included in Discovery in Trust Litigation?
Some things are not included in the discovery process in trust litigation because they are considered privileged information.
- Attorney to client communications. These communications are confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege.
- An attorney’s work to prepare for a case. The work completed by an attorney in anticipation of a case is also protected by the privilege; therefore, it is not subject to discovery.
- Preparation materials for a trial. Any materials that are used to prepare for a trial, such as witness lists or exhibits, are also protected by the privilege if they are prepared in anticipation of litigation.
- Irrelevant information to the case. Information that is not relevant to the case cannot be obtained through discovery. Including this could jeopardize the entire process, leaving the requesting party with nothing to show for it.
When you are involved in a trust dispute, it is important to understand the discovery process and what information can be obtained through it. An experienced trust litigation lawyer can help you protect your rights and get the information you need to make informed decisions.
Do I Need a Trust Litigation Lawyer?
If you are involved in a trust dispute, it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side. A trust litigation lawyer can help you:
- Navigate the discovery process. The discovery process can be complicated and time-consuming. An experienced lawyer can help you obtain the information you need to protect your interests, ensure that you are treated fairly, and advance the discovery process as quickly as possible.
- Represent you in court. A trust litigation lawyer can represent you in court and advocate for your best interests. If you cannot attend a hearing, your lawyer can appear on your behalf in some scenarios.
- Handle negotiations. In some cases, it may be possible to resolve the dispute without going to court. Your lawyer can handle negotiations on your behalf and work towards a resolution in your best interests.
- Prepare for trial. A trust litigation lawyer can help you prepare for trial and ensure that you have the best chance of winning your case by putting together a solid legal strategy.
If you are involved in a trust dispute, it is essential to have an experienced lawyer on your side. Contact the attorneys at Huber Fox to schedule a consultation. We can help protect your rights and get the information you need to pursue a successful discovery phase, and ultimately, a resolution to your trust case.