California Trust & Estate Litigation Lawyer
Trust and estate administration is not always pretty. Family members who are treated differently than others when it comes to their inheritance might sue to get their fair share. A trust might have been set up illegally or the trustees might have abused their duties to the trust. In appropriate cases, I’ll take on trust and estate litigation or other probate litigation on contingency. If I take your case, I’ll advance all the costs of litigation and only take a fee if I can help you get your fair share of the estate. Call me NOW for your FREE consultation with a California trust dispute in Southern California, including but not limited to Anaheim, Buena Park, Cerritos, Compton, Downey, Fullerton, Gardena, La Mirada and Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego..
What Is Trust & Estate Litigation?
Trusts can be challenged in many ways similar to the ways will contests arise in probate litigation. Here are some of the main reasons people end up in court battling over the terms or validity of a trust or the distribution of an estate.
Trusts are more complicated to make than wills, but just like with a will, a close friend, family member or caregiver could exert undue influence on a person to make or change a trust in such a way to benefit that person at the expense of other intended or potential beneficiaries.
A person could be tricked into making a trust to benefit a bogus charity or even a greedy family member with evil intent.
Lack of Capacity
A person needs to have the required mental state to be competent to create a trust and know the extent of their assets. The older or infirm a person gets, the more any trust they make or change is open to attack based on the lack of capacity.
Wills have to meet certain requirements in the “statute of wills” to be valid, and trusts have their own set of rules as well. For instance, a trust has to be in writing. The beneficiaries must be definitely named or ascertainable. One person cannot serve as both the sole trustee and the sole beneficiary. Also, a trust can only be formed for certain legitimate purposes. If any requirements are missing, the trust can be attacked as insufficient. If the trust is declared invalid, the property subject to the trust can instead be distributed according to the terms of the will or the California laws of intestate succession if there is no valid will either.
The trustee is responsible for a lot of activities, including preserving the trust property, maintaining it and possibly investing it for the benefit of the beneficiaries. A trustee should exercise solid business judgment, making safe, prudent investments to generate a reasonable rate of return and getting help from financial advisors or other professionals as needed to make sound decisions. The trustee is also required to provide accountings of trust property as requested. If the trustee fails to perform appropriately, litigation may be necessary to remove and replace the trustee or seek damages for any harm done.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
The trustee is a “fiduciary,” meaning a person in a position of trust with respect to the beneficiaries. As a fiduciary, the trustee must act in the beneficiaries’ best interests, avoiding conflicts of interest or making deals that benefit the trustee at the expense of the beneficiaries. Sometimes the trustee is also a beneficiary making it even harder to evaluate the trustee’s behavior.
Other professionals might also owe fiduciary duties to the trust. These professionals can include real estate agents and brokers, insurance agents, attorneys and accountants. If any of these professionals act negligently or breach their duties they can be sued and held liable for the damage done to the trust’s assets.
Estate litigation often involves members of the family fighting over an inheritance. When the family includes grown children from a prior marriage, fights can erupt between those kids and their step-parent or step-siblings over their share of the inheritance compared to the spouse or children of the second marriage. Also, any time one member of a class (such as children, grandchildren, or siblings) is treated differently from other members of the class (better or worse), the ones who are worse off might challenge the inheritance based on undue influence, lack of capacity or other grounds. An heir who has been disinherited might also fight to be included in the inheritance, claiming the omission was unintentional or ineffective. Fights are more likely when the beneficiary of a trust would be better off taking an inheritance under the will or California laws of intestate succession.
Call The Probate Guy for Help With Trust & Estate Litigation in California
Trusts and estate disputes can sometimes be settled without litigation. However, most times going to court is the best course of action to make sure you receive your proper inheritance. Call me NOW for your free consultation. I’ll let you know what I think your best options are right over the phone. The call is free and if I take your case, I’ll advance all fees, costs and expenses of the litigation and only take a fee at the end of the case if I’m successful. Call me for NOW with your trust dispute for a FREE consultation in Southern California, including but not limited to Anaheim, Buena Park, Cerritos, Compton, Downey, Fullerton, Gardena, La Mirada and Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.