Being a part of the litigation process can be an arduous and exhausting task. This situation can become especially stressful if you are involved in a legal action against your family or close friends. If you are embroiled in a legal action concerning estates or trusts, you should speak with an experienced estate and trust attorney.
The Pennsylvania estate and trust litigation attorneys at Herr Potts and Potts are dedicated to guiding clients through complex estate and trust legal actions. We have served residents in southeast Pennsylvania for over 80 years and would be happy to work with you. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us at (610) 254-0114 or contact us online.
Types of Estate and Trust Litigation
Estate and trust litigation is a broad phrase that encompasses many different types of legal actions. These actions include:
- Undue influence claims
- Trust disputes
- Will contests
- Probate and estate litigation
- State and federal tax issues
- Guardianship issues
- Conservatorships of persons and estates
Undue influence is a claim which is extremely common in estate litigation. Undue influence claims tend to arise among families when one individual is accused of controlling another for their own benefit.
How to Prove an Undue Influence Claim
Undue influence is a form of will contest. To prove an undue influence claim, a party must show three things:
- A confidential relationship – a confidential relationship exists when circumstances show one person has a dominating influence over a person who has depends on or trusts them.
- A weakened intellect – a weakened intellect exists when a person’s mind is inferior to normal minds in all circumstances of a particular situation.
- A substantial benefit – a substantial benefit is proven when a person receives a lion’s share of a person’s estate or a significant portion of it.
Once all three of these requirements are met, the person who is accused of undue influence has an opportunity to show these allegations are false. Undue influence cases usually occur when a party is in charge of the financial situation of another person. The party likely obtained this power by being appointed as a guardian of a disabled person or being chosen by the disabled person to oversee their affairs.
Other forms of will contests include:
- A will that was signed under duress
- Forgery of a will
- The signer of the will was incapacitated at the time of signing
- Fraud was utilized when drafting the will
- Assets being mismanaged during probate and the administration of the estate
- A surviving spouse who was left out of the will claims an interest
Generally, trust litigation usually occurs when the grantor of a trust passes away and the beneficiaries of the trust disagree about the proceeds of the trust should be distributed. This is usually compounded when the contents of the trust are substantial or when the disagreement if among family members. Due to trusts being more rigid structures, many trust litigation issues tend to arise when a trust does not provide for grandchildren or family members who were born after the execution of the trust.
Inappropriate actions of a trustee may also lead to beneficiaries being unsatisfied with the administration of a trust. Examples of litigation which can be brought against a trustee include:
- Improper investments using trust assets
- Breach of fiduciary duties to beneficiaries
- Stealing funds from the trust or embezzlement
- Fraudulent activities
- Disregarding the rules of a trust document
- Commingling of estate assets
- Trustee not cooperating with trust beneficiaries
- Validity of a trust
- Removal of a trustee
- Inadequate disbursement of funds
- Undue influence in the creation of a trust
Litigation of trusts are usually highly complex cases. Judging on the nature of the case, trust case usually requires some enforcement or preservation of particular trust rights or rules. Trust litigation, due to its complex nature, usually takes a considerable amount of time and energy from parties in the case and lawyers litigating the case.
This is not an all-encompassing guide to estate and trust litigation. If you are concerned about being involved in an estate and trust litigation dispute, you should speak with an experienced attorney immediately.
Pennsylvania Estate and Trust Lawyers Here to Fight for You
If you wish to file a legal action concerning the administration of an estate or trust, you should consult with a lawyer today. At Herr Potts and Potts, our estate and trust lawyers have decades of experience in estate issues and trust litigation. We have worked with clients in a variety of different estate and trust actions and would work diligently to serve you. Contact our southeast Pennsylvania estate and trust lawyers to schedule your confidential consultation. Call us at (610) 254-0114.