Estate planning is a crucial process to ensure your affairs are in order in the event of your incapacity or passing. It allows you to determine how your assets will be managed and distributed after your death. One important aspect of estate planning is the establishment of a trust, which grants you some control over your assets once you’re gone. This can provide peace of mind and alleviate stress for your loved ones.
Unfortunately, creating and disbursing a trust is not always a straightforward process. Apart from assisting individuals in creating estate plans and establishing trusts, trust attorneys can also support families dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s passing, leaving behind a trust. If you encounter issues during the trust administration process or suspect misconduct by the trustee or beneficiaries, a trust litigation lawyer can offer assistance.
What Is a Trust?
To understand the role of a trust litigation attorney, let’s first define what a trust is and why trust litigation occurs. A trust is a legal document with various types, each serving its specific purpose. However, regardless of the type, the ultimate objective remains the same: enabling individuals to control the management and distribution of their assets and property after they die.
A trust involves three key parties: the trustor, trustee, and beneficiary/beneficiaries. The trustor is the person who creates the trust to dictate their wishes regarding asset distribution upon their death. A trustee is responsible for managing the trust’s property and is obligated to abide by the trust’s terms and act in the best interests of its beneficiaries, in compliance with the law. Finally, the beneficiary or beneficiaries are the individuals who benefit from the trust.
What Is Trust Litigation?
Trust litigation refers to legal disputes surrounding trusts. Disagreements can arise between individuals involved in a trust, such as trustees and beneficiaries, as well as between external parties and those associated with the trust. For instance, a family member who wasn’t named as a beneficiary might suspect that the trustor was unduly influenced when creating the trust. Additionally, disputes can occur between multiple trustees named in a single trust.
Given the number of people involved in a trust, conflicts and problems are not uncommon. Money matters, coupled with strong emotions when dealing with the trust of a recently deceased loved one, can escalate situations. While it’s hoped that the trust’s terms will be faithfully followed, unforeseen circumstances may arise, necessitating the expertise of a trust litigation attorney.
Common Situations Leading to Trust Litigation
- Trustee Wrongdoing or Breach of Fiduciary Duty: If a trustee mismanages a trust or neglects their fiduciary duties, beneficiaries can take legal action. For example, if a trustee fails to distribute funds in a timely manner or breaches the trust’s terms, beneficiaries can pursue claims against them. In cases where a trustee is also a beneficiary, there may be a temptation to act unfairly, potentially resulting in legal action.
- Fraud or Undue Influence: A trust can be contested if there are suspicions that the named trustor didn’t create the trust genuinely or was coerced into creating or modifying it. Additionally, the trustor must have been of sound mind during the trust’s creation. If there are doubts about their mental capacity, the trust’s validity could be called into question.
- Disputes Between Trustees: It’s common for trusts to have multiple trustees. Disagreements may arise when there are conflicting opinions on what serves the best interests of the funds or assets held in the trust. Trustees engaged in serious disputes can benefit from legal representation to avoid further litigation and ensure the trustor’s wishes are upheld.
Roles of a Trust Litigation Attorney
An experienced trust litigation attorney assists all parties involved in a trust when disputes arise, potentially leading to litigation. Most legal matters have specific time limits within which they can be addressed in court. However, trust litigation differs since it can occur many years after the trustor’s passing, such as when minor beneficiaries come of age. Trust litigation can even arise decades later, long after a trustee has died if misconduct remains undiscovered for an extended period.
Trust litigation attorneys provide representation for both plaintiffs and defendants. Whether you require an attorney to help you take legal action against a trustee or need defense as a trustee facing accusations, consulting a lawyer will prove invaluable. Seasoned trust litigation attorneys possess comprehensive knowledge of trust laws and can offer guidance tailored to the specifics of your case. Given the complexity of various trust types and the number of individuals involved, trying to resolve issues without legal assistance may prove futile in terms of energy, time, and money.
Contact the Experienced Trust Litigation Team at Garrity Traina
If you’re a beneficiary suspecting a breach of trust terms or a trustee acting in the best interest of the trust, our dedicated professionals at Garrity Traina are ready to assist you. Specializing in estate law, we understand the complex nature of disputes that arise between beneficiaries and trustees. We also provide support for trustees accused of misconduct. Regardless of your role in a trust dispute, reach out to our team today for the representation you need.
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