How Do You Resolve Trust Disputes?

Learning that you have been named a beneficiary in a trust is usually a welcome surprise that can change the quality of your life and the life of your children and grandchildren. However, trust disputes can turn the experience into an agonizing feud between the other beneficiaries, who are often close family. We explore the different types of trust disputes, common methods of resolution, and who you can turn to for help when you find yourself engulfed in these disputes.

Understanding Each Type of Trust Dispute

When trusts contain high-value assets, disputes are always a risk. To contest a family trust, first, you must have a legal basis for your dispute and be considered an interested party with stakes in claiming the trust's assets. 

There are several types of trust disputes. Understanding each type can help you learn how to protect your interests if you find yourself in the midst of a trust dispute. This information can also alert you to when it might be time to hire an experienced trust dispute attorney who can attempt to settle the dispute out of court or file a petition with the count on your behalf, if necessary.

Several types of trust disputes are: 

  • Contests over the distribution of property and inheritance
  • Issues over trust administration or ineffective trust management
  • Undue influence or unnecessary pressure involved in trust creation
  • Legal capacity of the trustor to create the trust 

Contests Over Distribution of Property and Inheritance

There are a few reasons beneficiaries may contest the distribution of property and inheritance:

  • You may dispute the amount or percentage of the property and inheritance allotted to you versus the other beneficiaries in the trust.
  • You may be inheriting real estate along with multiple beneficiaries.
  • The real property distributed to you may come with an active mortgage.

If these issues lead to trust dispute litigation, a lawyer well-versed in trust disputes can help you settle your real estate legal issues. 

Issues Over Trust Administration or Ineffective Trust Management

A trustee has a duty to act in the beneficiaries' best interests at all times. The trustee must follow the terms of the trust without fail and make timely trust fund distributions concerning the administration of trust assets. However, some trustees are found lacking in these capacities. This could result in the beneficiaries not receiving their due inheritance promptly without legal assistance.

When trustees fail to make timely asset distributions, they have committed a breach of trust. The beneficiaries can turn to the legal system to compel trustees to immediately make the past-due and future trust distributions. A knowledgeable trust dispute lawyer can help you with this process.

Undue Influence or Unnecessary Pressure Involved in Trust Creation

Sometimes a beneficiary will feel that another beneficiary selfishly or maliciously exerted undue influence upon the trustor during the trust creation. It could be that a family member dislikes another beneficiary and convinces the trustor to reduce or eliminate that family member's inheritance. However, the example most commonly portrayed in media is the recent young spouse convincing the older trustor to leave the spouse the majority or all of the trustor's assets.

Of course, on the flip side of this is the opposite. The trustor's children may influence the trustor to omit their spouse from the trust. The belief that someone exerted undue influence during the creation of the trust can lead to trust dispute litigation.

Legal Capacity of Trustor To Create Trust

Occasionally, the mental capacity of the trustor at the time of the trust's creation or final amendment is questioned. If you are omitted from a trust or granted a suspiciously lower share than other beneficiaries of a similar familial connection, you may be able to contest the trust's validity. If the trustor had mental impairments, their legal capacity may disqualify them from creating or amending their trust. Many times a trust is part of an estate plan which includes a will as well. In Illinois, when both documents are contested the standards for disputing a will may apply. 

How To Resolve Trust Disputes

When you find yourself amid a trust dispute, it can be particularly uncomfortable because the other parties are often family. A trust dispute lawyer can help you clear up the legal issues using several different resolution methods.

Trust Beneficiaries Cast a Vote

In some trust dispute cases, the beneficiaries may be able to resolve the matter without going to court. Sometimes, this can be achieved by the beneficiaries by agreement. A trust dispute attorney can explain this option in greater detail.

Trustee Is Replaced By Judge or Beneficiaries

If the trustee is poorly managing the trust or is found lacking in their administrative duties, it may be possible to replace the trustee with a professional trustee or one of the beneficiaries. You may be able to convince the court that replacing the trustee is in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries. Reasons why a court may side with you include proving that the trustee has:

  • Mismanaged the trust's assets
  • Created a conflict of interest
  • Failed to follow the trust's terms
  • Engaged in self-dealing

Depending on your case, there may be other ways to convince the court that replacing the trustee is the best decision.

Trust Litigation or Alternative Dispute Resolution in Serious Cases

In serious cases, when attempts at amicable resolution or replacing the trustee are either unsuccessful or not valid options, it may be necessary to take the case to court. Trust lawsuits are best handled by an experienced trust dispute lawyer.

Hire an Experienced Attorney To Handle Your Estate Litigation

Often, beneficiaries may attempt to sort matters related to trust disputes without legal aid, and this can be advisable as a first step. Some contests are innocent misunderstandings and can be resolved without taking the trustee or other beneficiaries to court. Often, it is recommended to first try to communicate with your trustee or other beneficiaries, explain the issues, and propose a solution. However, if your words fall on deaf ears or the other party takes no action to remedy the situation, then it may be time to contact an estate trial  attorney to handle your legal disputes in a court of law.

An experienced trust dispute attorney can help you settle and/or litigate your trust and estate property issues. When communication breaks down between you and other parties within your trust, your only option of resolution may be legal action. It is understandable why many beneficiaries may be reluctant to enter into hostile trust litigation. However, an attorney experienced in handling trust disputes can help keep the dispute focused on the facts rather than the emotions involved in these affairs. 

Contact the trust dispute attorneys at King & Jones by calling us at 312-372-4142. Our experienced Chicago trust and estate litigation legal team can advise you of your best options to successfully resolve your dispute.

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