When a person passes on, it should follow that their wishes are easily and completely carried out. Yet, too often, that does not happen, or the wishes are not known. Some people pass with extensive debt or significant hidden expenses that come to light later. Whether you are an heir or an executor of a will, it is critical to have trusted contested will attorneys in San Jose, CA, by your side if you are dealing with complicated legal matters regarding an estate.
This could include disputes among heirs. You may have situations where creditors are making claims you believe are unfounded. Other times, people are deceitful. When you’re facing difficult situations like this, it can be heartbreaking, but it also means you need legal help to get you through the process. Steburg Law Firm can help you with the entire process.
Trust & Probate Litigation
Litigation may be necessary when financial mismanagement of a trust or estate or undue influence is involved in the execution of a will. At the Steburg Law Firm we work to expose malfeasance on the part of executors or trustees. In probate litigation, we consult private investigators and medical professionals when a will departs radically from known, stated wishes of a decedent. In many cases, a thorough review of the history of a will and the actions of the people surrounding the deceased in the latter months and days of his or her life is enough to reveal the presence of undue influence or diminished mental capacity.
If you believe a trust or estate has been mismanaged or believe your deceased family member was manipulated or coerced into changing his or her will, contact Steburg Law Firm today to schedule an appointment and discuss your case.
When Trust or Probate Litigation Is Necessary
The Steburg Law Firm represents clients in regard to the following issues surrounding a contested will or trust:
- Failure to file or furnish accurate financial reports for a trust or estate
- Financial mismanagement of a trust or estate
- Inconsistencies in IRA or 401k designations
- Duress in preparing a will
- ERISA issues affecting a will or trust
- Undue influence
- Mental capacity
- Violations of fiduciary responsibility
- Improper transfer of property or money
Many people ask if they need a will. The answer is yes! If you want to make sure that your property goes to the right people or if you want to simplify the process for your heirs then a will is a necessity. However, wills are not always foolproof. This is where our firm gets involved.
It is important to keep in mind that our firm does not do any estate planning. Our role in handling wills is to defend them from a contest or to represent the contestants themselves or to construe the meaning of the will after it has been probated.
There are other areas of estate litigation besides a contested will that our firm handles including:
- Demands for an accounting
- Breach of fiduciary duty claims against executors and administrators
- Removal of executors and administrators
- Heirship determinations
Will contests make up a large part of our practice. Any person who has an interest in or appears to have an interest in an estate can contest a will. There are various reasons why someone would challenge a loved one’s will. Typically, we see complaints of improper execution, testator incapacity, duress, fraud, or undue influence.
For a will to be valid, a testator, the creator of the will, must have testamentary capacity. Testamentary capacity means, among other things, that testators know the extent of their property, that they want to make a will, who their heirs are, and what they want to do with their property. They must be able to consider all of these factors at the same time, understand the relationship between each, and make a reasonable judgment as to these elements
A person can contest a will up to two years after the will is admitted to probate, with some exceptions that allow one to contest more than two years after. But one can also file a contest before the will is probated – meaning, after a will is filed but before the court has found it to be valid. The timing is often a critical factor which should be considered quickly.
Removing Executors and Administrators
Removal of an executor or administrator is typically based on a breach of fiduciary duty or a conflict. Executors and administrators owe the beneficiaries or heirs a high standard of care which usually include: giving a full accounting, fully disclosing all necessary information, and a duty of loyalty. Beneficiaries can also seek removal for mismanaging the estate or self dealing.
Trust litigation comes in many forms because it can occur before or after the settlor’s (the creator of the trust) death. Trusts also come in many different forms, which create greater material for a dispute. Trusts are often created to provide for a minor, protect against incompetence, provide tax benefits, creditor protection and/or privacy, or prevent a beneficiary from receiving a lump sum of money. Through a trust agreement, the settlor has a say in how and when money is distributed to the beneficiaries.
So why would there be a dispute over a trust? There are many reasons trust litigation arises, and there are many types of people that can initiate it. Typically, it begins with a beneficiary who has an issue with the trustee, the terms of the trust agreement, or the creation of the trust altogether.
The basis for discharging a trustee could be, among others, breach of fiduciary duty, self-dealing, enforcement of distribution terms, material violation of the terms of a trust, trustee incapacity, or trustee mismanagement. These claims may allow for the recovery of damages from the trustee as well as their removal.
Though there are many reasons to pursue claims against a trustee, the trustee is also afforded some protection. A trustee often has a right to use the trust funds for his defense. While the majority of litigation arises out of issues pertaining to the beneficiaries, our Firm has represented settlors, trustees, and beneficiaries.
Trust Creation Disputes
Another significant cause of trust litigation arises through the very creation of a trust. To be a valid trust the settlor must have intended to create a trust; the settlor must also have mental capacity to create a trust, and free of undue influence. This creates opportunity for someone to oppose the validity of a trust.
Often this situation will arise when a family member has been cut out of a testamentary trust (one created in a will) or a trust created at the same time as a will, and was not provided for elsewhere. They could also be angry about who was named as the beneficiary seeking to prevent them from receiving anything at all.
How to Choose the Best Lawyer for Contested Wills and Estate Disputes
Choosing an attorney to guide you through contested wills and estate disputes means selecting a professional who has ample experience and the ability to work closely with you. You need an attorney with ample time to dedicate to your case. Also, some types of disputes are very complex, requiring a highly trained and experienced attorney who has had to help others through the same types of complications.
- When choosing contested will attorneys in San Jose, CA, there are a few key things to seek out.Does the attorney have litigation experience? Sometimes these cases are complex and wind up in a courtroom. You want an attorney that’s capable of helping you in these situations.
- If you need an attorney to handle claims of breach of fiduciary duty, you need a trusted professional with experience handling difficult situations like this, which often involve legal actions to make changes happen.
- Seek out an attorney that can provide you with all of the legal options available to you in difficult cases, such as when mental capacity or undue influence are factors. This often involves understanding the limitations of the law but also your rights.
You know what you believe is right. Choose attorneys that are capable and willing to work closely with you to ensure your rights are heard. Steburg Law Firm can do that for you.
How the Steburg Law Firm Can Help
These are just a couple of examples of when and how trust disputes might arise. There is a wide variety of situations which lead to a trust litigation. If you believe that there is an error in the creation, maintenance, or management of a trust, please contact our offices to discuss your situation.
Will and trust contests can be a daunting task, and professional help ensures your greatest chance of success. Steburg Law Firm’s team of elder law attorney’s can present your case before the court and help you reach the best solution possible. Allow our qualified professionals to guide you through a process which can otherwise be an overwhelming ordeal. Contact the Steburg Law Firm today at 408-573-1122 to see how we can help resolve your Will or Trust contest.