Losing a loved one is never easy. Besides dealing with the emotional toll, family members often face the challenges of the probate process. In an attempt to bypass probate, more people nowadays are incorporating trusts into their estate plans, instead of relying solely on wills. However, this shift has led to an increase in trust disputes that may ultimately result in litigation. If you find yourself embroiled in a trust dispute, it is crucial to have a skilled estate planning lawyer by your side who can confidently represent you throughout the litigation process.
Understanding Trust Contests
Trust contests are legal cases that seek to invalidate a trust or question its amendments. These disputes often arise when a family member or beneficiary disagrees with the terms outlined in the will or trust. However, not everyone has the legal standing to file a lawsuit challenging a trust. Only individuals who can establish a financial interest in the trust, or those who would inherit money or assets if the trust did not exist, have the right to bring a trust contest lawsuit.
If you are a named beneficiary of a trust, you have the right to receive a copy of the trust and an accounting of its assets without obtaining a court order. This initial step is crucial in trust litigation. Reviewing the provisions of the trust in collaboration with your lawyer will lay the groundwork before pursuing a trust contest. Given the various grounds for contesting a trust, rely on your lawyer’s expertise to determine the most suitable legal approach for your situation.
Common Grounds for Trust Contests
One prevalent type of trust contest revolves around disputing the capacity of the trust’s creator, claiming that they lacked mental capacity when forming the trust. Although these challenges can be challenging to prove, they are relatively common. The person contesting the trust must demonstrate that the trust creator was legally incapacitated, which is no easy task. Undue influence is another basis for trust contests, where a beneficiary argues that the trust’s existence or terms were manipulated due to coercion or improper persuasion.
Addressing Claims Against Trustees
Another form of trust litigation involves claims against the trustee. The trust’s creator appoints one or more trustees to manage the trust in accordance with its terms. Under North Carolina law, trustees are legally obligated to act in good faith and fulfill the beneficiaries’ best interests. Trustees cannot make decisions that solely benefit themselves; their actions must prioritize the beneficiaries who are entitled to receive money or assets from the trust.
When trustees act in their self-interest or fail to fulfill the terms of the trust, they breach their fiduciary duty and violate North Carolina law. If you suspect a trustee is not meeting their legal obligations, it is crucial to work with a qualified trust litigation attorney. They can assist you in petitioning a North Carolina Court to remove the trustee in question. As a trust beneficiary, you have specific rights, including the ability to review the trust’s annual accounting. A lawyer can help you gather the necessary information to determine if the trustee is fulfilling their legal obligations.
Constructive Trusts: A Rare Remedy
Constructive trusts are a special type of trust created by a court, rather than an individual or corporation. These trusts are established to transfer property or assets to a beneficiary. Courts typically impose constructive trusts when a trustee has breached their fiduciary duties while handling trust assets, resulting in their unjust enrichment.
Constructive trusts are relatively uncommon and are only used in specific circumstances. If you are involved in a constructive trust case, either as a trustee or a beneficiary, it is vital to seek the guidance of a trust lawyer. They will ensure that your best interests are represented throughout the legal proceedings.
Trust Litigation Assistance in Charlotte
At Garrity Traina, our experienced attorneys can provide valuable assistance in contesting or defending trusts. With our in-depth courtroom experience, we are well-equipped to advocate for you effectively. When it comes to trust litigation, whether you find yourself as a trustee, beneficiary, or third party, retaining the services of a knowledgeable lawyer is crucial. Reach out to us today to schedule an initial consultation at our offices in Charlotte, Mooresville, or Monroe.
Remember, trust litigation can be complex, and having a reliable lawyer by your side can make all the difference. Don’t hesitate to seek expert legal guidance during this challenging time.