Litigation for estates and trusts is fairly common. In fact, disputes often arise because a trustee, personal representative, or executor had little to no experience, and was not suited for the role of managing assets of a decedent’s estate. Many people turn to an attorney for help with trust and estate litigation, as this proceeding can get complex and perhaps even emotionally hostile. After a person passes away, conflicts can arise between family members over who gets what from the estate.
Fiduciary Duty of Trustee
The appointed trustee by the decedent owes a fiduciary duty to appointed beneficiaries within the trust. However, there may be instances where a beneficiary is irate and upset about how the trustee is handling their relative’s legacy. A beneficiary may allege that the trustee committed malfeasance, or acted in a way that was in one’s own best interest and not based on the instructed wishes of the decedent.
Other types of allegations may be over illegal disposal of assets, diversion of assets, undue influence, and conflicts of interest. In order to weave through this dispute, assistance may be required by a knowledgeable legal professional.
What To Do When Litigation is Unavoidable
An attorney who has represented clients in your predicament before, has a deeper understanding of the laws and legalities of trusts (surely more-so than the average person). It may be tempting to reach out to friends and family for advice on what to do. While these suggestions may be well-intentioned, they may not be helpful. An attorney can investigate the situation further, and let you know when trust litigation is probably unavoidable. Conflicts for the following reasons are unlikely to be settled outside of trust and estate litigation:
- Illegal distribution of assets by the trustee
- Mismanagement of assets by the trustee
- The trustee being unable to perform duties as required
- Conflicts of interest
- A situation that impairs impartiality of trustee
- Suspicions that manipulation, undue influence, or other pressures were put on the decedent before passing away
Pursuing Case Against Trustee
If you are the relative of the decedent who feels like the trustee isn’t being responsible and acting with care towards your loved one’s trust or estate, it is recommended that you seek legal intervention before matters escalate. During such a sensitive time, relatives may be so overwhelmed that they become frozen and don’t know what to do. Receiving sound advice from an attorney can make the difference in seeing that beneficiaries get their due inheritance.
When Appointing a Trustee Goes Wrong
Before the decedent passes away, he or she may have chosen a trustee who they care deeply about but didn’t consider whether that individual was capable of carrying out such an important role. It is important for anyone writing a trust and estate plan, to pick a trustee that they feel is reliable, isn’t afraid to ask for help, trustworthy, genuine, and would only act in the best interest of the decedent.