Dedicated, Compassionate, And Effective Representation
Estate planning is an important way to organize someone’s assets and debts in case they become incapacitated and to help their heirs resolve matters upon the planner’s death. Often, a trust is established to control how the creator’s assets are distributed and managed. Other situations may involve a Will and estate planning documents other than a trust.
Even with the best of intentions and skilled planning, problems can arise and dispute can occur between the people involved in the estate. Estate administration may require some level of court involvement and supervision, as in the case of probate when there is no trust. Or, the court system may not be involved at all, as in the case of trust administration. In either area, however, disputes can arise, and when that happens, the parties involved should turn to a trust and estate litigation lawyer to help navigate the court system.
If you are facing trust and estate litigation in Chicago or nationwide, you can count on the law firm of King & Jones for practical advice and exceptional representation. Our Chicago business litigation lawyers have decades of experience litigating trust and estate matters and breach of fiduciary duty claims in Illinois and beyond. Our Chicago trust & estates litigation attorneys possess the knowledge and experience necessary to guide you and advocate on your behalf in any dispute regarding the validity or enforceability of a will, trust, or other testamentary instruments
Probate Disputes, Will Contests And Challenges
Probate describes the process of settling claims against the estate, validating the offered will, and distributing the estate according to the terms of the will. At the opening of the estate, all creditors are notified and provided with a window in which to bring their claims. The estate’s executor, administrator or personal representative is in charge of paying those claims out of estate funds before making will distributions to heirs. The executor owes a fiduciary duty to the heirs to protect the estate from spurious claims that would wrongfully dilute or dissipate the heirs’ inheritance. Litigation may be necessary to validate the claim and determine whether it must be paid or not.
The will itself might also be challenged under a number of grounds. Most often, will contests center around a claim that the testator lacked the mental capacity to make or alter the will, or that another person exerted undue influence on the testator to insert provisions in the will the testator otherwise would not have made. These challenges are more likely when a will is made or altered later in life, often after the testator has remarried or has been under the care of a family member or professional caregiver. Will contests are most often brought by heirs or omitted heirs who would get a larger share of inheritance under an older will or previous version of the will or according to state laws of intestate succession if there is no valid will at all.
Who Do We Represent?
Depending on the complexity of someone’s estate plan and the people involved, various conflicts can arise after they are gone. When disputes occur between family members, beneficiaries, trustees, or other estate representatives, sometimes the only way to address these problems is through litigation and court involvement. The Chicago trust and estate litigation lawyers at King & Jones can help resolve these controversies through negotiation or litigation as needed.
Our team understands the complexities of the law and how different parties have different needs and legal rights. We represent all types of estate participants including:
Fiduciaries accused of wrongdoing - If you are an Executor, Trustee, Administrator, or Agent who has been accused of breaching your fiduciary duties or other wrongdoing, we can explain the law and your legal rights to help address and defend these accusations.
Beneficiaries - If you have been denied your share of an estate or you suspect a breach of fiduciary duty has occurred, a seasoned trust and estate lawyer can investigate and bring the action needed to enforce your rights.
Contesting Parties - If you suspect fraud, undue influence, or coercion was involved when the decedent created their estate plan, or if the testator was not mentally sound enough to create or modify an estate plan, a will, trust, or estate contest may be warranted. Also, if you were left out of a Will or trust, you may have the legal right to contest the estate process.
Disputes Between Trustees - Some trusts name co-trustees to help administer the trust assets. This means both trustees must agree on every decision during trust administration. Sometimes, the trustees do not agree and a trust litigation attorney can help resolve the dispute, either through settlement negotiations or court action.
Probate Disputes, Will Contests, And Other Estate Challenges
Probate describes the process of settling claims against a decedent’s estate, validating the offered will, and distributing the estate according to the terms of the will. At the opening of the estate, all creditors are notified and provided with a window of opportunity to bring their claims against the estate. The estate’s executor, administrator, or personal representative is in charge of paying those claims out of estate funds before making will distributions to heirs.
The executor owes a fiduciary duty to the heirs to protect the estate from questionable claims that would wrongfully dilute or dissipate the heirs’ inheritance. Litigation may be necessary to validate a creditor’s claim and determine whether or not it must be paid.
Like wills, trusts can also be the subject of litigation when their validity is challenged. Beneficiaries may argue the grantor or settlor was unduely influenced on they didn’t have the capacity to make a valid trust. These situations lay the groundwork for many trust disputes.
Allegations of coercion, fraud, or duress might also have to be litigated to determine whether the terms of a trust are valid and enforceable. Questions about who the proper beneficiaries of the trust are can also arise when the beneficiaries were not definitely identified in the trust document.
Common Causes of Will And Trust Disputes
The source of most will and trust litigation is a dispute among family members over the size or share of an inheritance. These disputes can arise in a number of ways.
If one family member became especially close to the decedent in the decedent’s later years, other family members might challenge any will or trust changes made during that period that favor the close family member over the others.
Blended families also give rise to will and trust litigation, usually centered around disputes between children of a first and second marriage or children of a first marriage versus the step-parent.
An omitted heir might also litigate a claim that they should nevertheless be included in the inheritance. Likewise, any heir who is given a lesser share than other members of the same class (children, grandchildren) is more likely to bring a claim alleging some error in the creation of the will or trust document.
Also, when a trust names co-trustees to administer the trust, the trustees may disagree about how to proceed. If they cannot resolve their disagreement, a trust litigation lawyer may be able to help.
How We Can Help You
A seasoned trust and estate litigation attorney can help any of the parties involved in estate or trust disputes, especially in situations where the court system may be involved. Trust litigation may be necessary long after a person dies and the trust is initially adminstered. For example, if a minor beneficiary discovers an issue, they may have the right to dispute the trust when they reach the legal age of majority. Or, a breach of fiduciary duty may not be discovered for several years.
As trust and estate litigation lawyers, we can advise and advocate for either side of a probate dispute. Whether you are a beneficiary whose rights have been violated or a trustee accused of improper administration, we have the experience and legal know-how to protect your rights. We can explain the laws that control your unique situation and suggest a strategic plan to resolve the issues you are facing.
For help with trust and estate litigation in Chicago or throughout the country, call King & Jones at 312-372-4142. Our experienced Chicago trust and estate litigation attorneys can advise you of your best options and develop a strategy to successfully resolve your dispute, no matter what issues are involved.