What is Trust and Estate Litigation and Can I Avoid It?

Trust and estate litigation can become an issue for several different reasons. Not every dispute will necessarily lead to litigation in court, but there are some issues that are more likely to bring people to court than others. Whether you are facing litigation initiated by someone else or you are considering filing a lawsuit yourself, our Orange County trust and estate litigation attorneys are he

Scott Schomer
May 22, 2018

Mismanagement of a Trust

One of the most important aspects of creating a trust is choosing the right trustee.  That person will be responsible for managing the trust assets according to the terms you include in your trust agreement. Your trustee will have a significant amount of power. Unfortunately, some trustees abuse that power. Whether it is an individual or an organization, mismanagement of a trust or other misconduct commonly lead to trust litigation. Usually, it is a trust beneficiary who first suspects that something is not quite right. In those cases, trust litigation is initiated in order to examine the trustee’s actions or even have the trustee removed.

 

Contesting a Will

Will contests, that is challenging a will in court, can be very serious. It is very common for individuals who stand to inherit from someone (especially someone with a great deal of wealth) to challenge a will, particularly if they did not receive what they expected. It is important to remember that not everyone has standing to challenge a will and not everyone will contest is worth the time and money.

 

Challenging a Conservatorship

Guardianships often become necessary when an individual becomes incapacitated and needs assistance in making decisions and caring for themselves. The person who steps in is referred to as a conservator in California when you are dealing with an incapacitated adult or ward. The conservator has the legal authority to act on behalf of the adult who is incapacitated, but only in that person’s best interests. In reality, not every conservator acts in the ward’s best interests. In some cases, the ward’s family may decide it is necessary to challenge decisions made by the conservator by initiating litigation. If you have questions about how to challenge a conservator, discuss your situation with our Orange County trust and estate litigation attorneys.

 

What are some ways to avoid trust and estate litigation?

Although there is no fool-proof way to avoid trust and estate litigation, there are a few steps you can take in your estate planning that may help to reduce the likelihood that you or your family member will find themselves in court one day. The first step is to find Orange County trust and estate litigation attorneys who have knowledge and skill in this area and who will represent your interests only. Also, be careful in choosing the executor of your estate and/or your trustee. It can also help to discuss your intentions with regard to your estate plans with your family members before you draft your trust or last will and testament. That way you can eliminate many of the surprises that will most likely result in a fight once you are gone.

Updating your estate planning documents, such as your will and trust, is another easy way to reduce the risk of trust and estate litigation. If you periodically update these important legal documents, while making it clear that you are doing so in the absence of undue influence from others, will or trust contests are less likely to be an issue.

 

Other estate planning strategies to consider

There are a few estate planning strategies with which your Orange County trust and estate litigation attorneys should be familiar. For example, if you title your assets in a way that allows them to pass on to your heirs outside of the probate court, then litigation is less likely to be a concern. The same is true if you include non-contest clauses to any testamentary gifts you make. These clauses are known to be useful in discouraging trust and estate litigation because heirs are less likely to contest their inheritance.

 

Our Orange County Trust and Estate Litigation Attorneys Can Help!

While some clients need the advice of an Orange County trust and estate litigation attorney to help them create an appropriate estate plan, others actually need advice about whether to initiate litigation or perhaps to help them navigate through litigation in which they are already involved. Either way, we are here to help.

About The Author
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Scott P. Schomer is a graduate of Boston University School of Law and is a frequent lecturer on estate planning and elder law issues, having appeared on local and national television discussing the importance of estate planning. His firm, Schomer Law Group, is a professional law corporation that ...

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