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Estate and Trust Litigation

Will and lifetime transfer contest litigation

Greedy relatives… Weak economy… Too many lawyers… An aging population…“Do it yourself” estate planning documents… “Entitlement generation” children helping themselves to their parents’ assets. These are some of the factors in the perfect storm causing a surge in will contest and “lifetime transfer contest” litigation.

Some will contests are little more than disguised attempts at extortion. Others are legitimate efforts by family members and charities to obtain what is rightfully theirs. Many lifetime transfer contests are brought by parents whose children have misused powers of attorney or taken advantage of their failing faculties to unjustly enrich themselves.

Our Trustlawyer Team has over 30 years of experience negotiating and trying contested will and trust matters. We are able to evaluate the merits of proposed contests and provide our clients with a realistic estimate of the probability of success.

We have represented people on both sides. We have vigorously contested wills on behalf of family members who were denied their rightful inheritance due to the ravages of a dementia or the influence of the testator’s trusted friends or advisors. We’ve restored assets to parents whose children had been less than trustworthy. We have aggressively defended wills against attacks by greedy relatives who bring totally groundless proceedings, hoping that all they need to do is say “open sesame” to open the doors of the family vault.

Construction litigation

This sounds like suing a builder for shoddy work. It’s actually asking a court to construe the terms of a will or trust document. We tried one matter where the court had to determine the meaning of the word “issue” in a 1921 will. In another case, the question was whether an asset would be distributed at date of death value or would include post-death appreciation. This type of litigation is technical and requires an in depth understanding of estate and trust law principles and precedents.

Fiduciary litigation

An executor or trustee who has acted wrongly may be compelled to restore assets to the estate or trust or may be removed. We’ve successfully represented our clients in various types of fiduciary matters. For example, we’ve represented executors, trustees and beneficiaries in removal proceedings and fee disputes. We took action against a trustee for failing to take a beneficiary’s resources into account before making distributions to her, as required by the trust agreement. And we’ve sued a trustee for failing to diversify investments.