Losing a loved one is a difficult experience and the emotional burden can be harder to bear if disputes arise among surviving family members and other rightful beneficiaries. When questions are raised over the validity of a will or trust, a testator’s capacity, or potential fiduciary misconduct, an experienced attorney can help to lift the burden of resolving these disputes.
The trust litigation attorneys at GM Law routinely represent clients in and around Santa Barbara County and throughout the state of California. Our team has extensive experience in the probate courts and a proven track record of helping clients successfully resolve estate and trust disputes.
Common Trust Disputes
Today, as the population grows older, challenges over the capacity of testators and fiduciaries have become increasingly common along with allegations of undue influence and elder abuse.
Similarly, trustees and other fiduciaries often face allegations of misconduct. These and other conflicts often form the basis of litigation.
Over our many years of practice, we have represented both fiduciaries and beneficiaries in a wide range of trust disputes, including, but not limited to:
- Will and trust validity
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Beneficiary disputes
- Contested heirship
- Fraud, coercion, incapacity or undue influence
- Contested powers of attorney
- Contested accountings
- Modifications of wills and trusts
- Interpretation of trust provisions
- Elder financial abuse
- Fraudulent transfers
- Recovery of assets
The team at GM Law is comprised of attorneys who are not only experienced estate planners, but highly adept trial attorneys as well. We are well versed in the applicable probate and trust laws and rules that govern these matters and the related common law principles of equity.
Because of the emotional toll and financial costs that a prolonged dispute can have for family members, we often encourage our clients to resolve these matters through arbitration or mediation. If a negotiated settlement cannot be reached, however, we are fully prepared to litigate any dispute in the probate courts. By leveraging our legal writing and oral argument skills, we strive to achieve successful outcomes.
How to Avoid Trust Litigation
Given the costs and inevitable resentment that are often associated with a protracted litigation, there are a measures that can be taken to avoid trust litigation.
First, it is crucial for wills and trusts to be unambiguous and properly drafted to ensure that the terms are clear. Many disputes arise when there is a conflict over the terms of that require clarification through a legal proceeding. For this reason, it is helpful to have a capable attorney prepare all the estate planning documents. This can minimize the risk of challenges to the validity of the documents or claims of undue influence or fraud.
Additionally, wills and trusts should be up to date, and reflect any changes that have occurred during a person’s lifetime, such as marriage, the birth of children, divorce, remarriage and the like. Similarly, beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement accounts should be updated to match the estate plan.
Moreover, personal representative and trustees must carry out their duties properly and be capable and ethical in managing the estate assets. In short, personal representatives and trustees are well advised to seek legal representation before carrying out their duties to ensure all of their actions are transparent.
Of course, the best way to avoid disputes is through open and honest communication. All the arrangements of a will or trust should be discussed among the family members so that the beneficiaries are aware of reason behind the testator’s or trust maker’s decisions.
Why You Should Call a Trust Litigation Attorney from GM Law
At GM Law, we recognize that litigation can have long lasting consequences for family members and fiduciaries, and we devise creative solutions to our client’s most pressing challenges. Over our many years of practice, we have gained a comprehensive understanding of trusts and estate law and have earned a reputation for protecting the interests of our clients.
We are keenly aware that probate issues typically involve a host of related matters such a taxes, real estate, and insurance. Through a combination of in depth legal knowledge and business savvy, we offer each client superior representation. Our clients include personal representatives, estate administrators, corporate fiduciaries such as banks and trust companies, beneficiaries including families, high net-worth individuals and charitable beneficiaries, as well as entrepreneurs and small business owners.
We are dedicated to resolving disputes, whether through negotiation or litigation, and always put the best interests of our clients first. Nonetheless, we believe that disputes can be avoided if clear policies are initially established for the administration of trusts and estates. If legal action is inevitable, our experienced team has a proven track record of achieving favorable settlements.
If you have questions about the validity of estate planning documents, the conduct of a fiduciary, or any other concerns related to the administration of a trust or estate, call our office in confidence today or fill out a contact form to set up a consultation.