Estate planning is an important process that should be completed to ensure your affairs are in order in the event you become incapacitated or pass away. It allows you to determine how your assets will be managed and distributed after your death. Establishing a trust is one component of estate planning that allows you to have some control over your assets once you are gone, hopefully giving you some peace of mind and decreasing stress amongst the loved ones you leave behind.
Unfortunately, the process of creating and disbursing a trust is not always straightforward. In addition to helping people create estate plans and establish trusts, a trust attorney can support you and your family after a loved one has passed, leaving a trust behind. If you encounter issues during the trust administration process or suspect wrongdoing by the trustee or beneficiaries of a trust, a trust litigation lawyer can help.
What Is a Trust?
To understand what a trust litigation attorney does, it’s important to first get an understanding of what a trust is and why trust litigation occurs. There are several different types of trusts, each of which is a legal document that serves its own purpose. Regardless of the type of trust created, they are generally all created with the same end goal: allowing a person to control how their assets and property are managed and distributed after their death.
A trust is a legal agreement involving a trustor, trustee, and beneficiary/beneficiaries. The trustor is the person creating the trust to establish their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets upon their death. A trustee is the party selected to manage the property in the trust. They are obligated to follow the terms of the trust and manage the trust’s property in the interests of its beneficiaries in agreement with the law. Finally, the beneficiary is the person, or people, who benefit from the trust.
What Is Trust Litigation?
Trust litigation refers to legal disputes over a trust. Disputes could occur between the different people involved in a trust, such as a trustee and beneficiaries, as well as between outsiders and those involved in a trust. For example, a family member who was not named as a beneficiary may come to believe the trustor was under undue influence when creating the trust. Additionally, multiple trustees could be named on a single trust, which creates the potential for disputes between them.
The amount of people involved in a trust creates several opportunities for disagreements and problems. Not only is money involved, but emotions can be high when it comes to dealing with the trust of a recently passed loved one. While it is the hope that the terms of the trust will be followed as they were written by the trustor, there are reasons when things don’t go as planned, and the help of a trust litigation attorney is needed.
Common Situations Leading to Trust Litigation
- Trustee Wrongdoing, or Breach of Fiduciary Duty – Ineffective or illegal management of a trust by the trustee can lead to litigation. Beneficiaries can pursue claims against trustees if they can prove wrongdoing on the part of the trustee, such as not distributing funds on time or breaching the terms laid out in the trust. In instances where a trustee is also a beneficiary, they could be tempted to act unfairly, in which case legal action could be taken.
- Fraud or Undue Influence – A trust can be contested if it is suspected the person named as trustor did not actually create the trust or was coerced into creating or altering the trust in some way. The creator must also have been of sound mind when the trust was created. If it is suspected they were not, the legality of the trust could be in question.
- Disputes Between Trustees – It is common for trusts to have multiple trustees, and when there are disagreements about what is in the best interest of the funds or assets in the trust, disputes can arise. Trustees engaged in serious disagreements could benefit from legal representation to avoid further litigation down the road and ensure the wishes of the trustor are protected.
Roles of a Trust Litigation Attorney
An experienced trust litigation attorney can help any involved parties in a trust when situations that potentially call for litigation arise. Most legal situations have a statute of limitations, meaning after a certain amount of time has passed, the issues can no longer be addressed in court. Trust litigation is different in that it can take place many years after a trustor has passed away, such as when minor beneficiaries come of age. Trust litigation can sometimes occur decades later, even after a trustee has died, if wrongdoing is not discovered for many years.
Trust litigation attorneys can provide representation on either side of a case. Whether you need an attorney to guide you through taking action against a trustee or are a trustee in need of defense, discussing your case with a lawyer will be beneficial. Experienced trust litigation attorneys are aware of the laws surrounding trusts and can provide counsel regarding the best course of action to take on a case-by-case basis. Due to the several different types of trusts and the number of people involved in a trust, attempting to resolve issues without an attorney can be a waste of energy, time, and money.
Contact the Experienced Trust Litigation Team at Huber Fox
If you are a beneficiary who suspects the terms of a trust are not being followed or that a trustee is not acting in the best interest of the trust, our dedicated professionals are ready to assist you. We specialize in estate law and understand the intricate cases that arise when there are disputes between beneficiaries and trustees. We are also able to help trustees defend themselves who are accused of wrongdoing. Regardless of what side you are on, if you are involved in a trust dispute, contact our team today to get the representation you need.
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