A trust litigation lawyer represents people who suspect that they are getting short-changed on their rightful share of the trust. We have clients who have been grossly mistreated and lied to by the trustee, who is usually a relative and a person they are supposed to trust. We also have clients with the opposite problem – they are trustees who are being unfairly accused by the beneficiaries. A trust litigation lawyer’s job is to enforce his clients’ rights and do everything in his power to win their case. Here are situations that we typically handle:
Table of Contents
Someone Was Left Out of the Trust
When a trust litigation lawyer’s client is cut out of the trust, the lawyer investigates whether the decedent was incapacitated, coerced or defrauded. We may also look into accusations of forgery or improper execution. We can even find that a later will is discovered. We strive to get the evidence and argue the legal theory to get the best possible settlement or verdict for our clients in trust contests. If the trust litigation lawyer finds evidence of those things, then he takes the case to trial, to try to prove to the judge or the jury that the trust is invalid and should be set aside. We can also defend a trust that a beneficiary is attempting to contest – we can represent either side of the trust contest, whether the proponent of the trust or the objectant to the trust.
Accusations of Stealing from the Trust
Trustees don’t always steal from trusts, but it happens often enough, and when it does, a trust litigation lawyer is there to try to reverse the damage to the trust. Trustees have access to the funds, and the temptation is too much to resist for some people. We’ve seen stealing by administrators, trustees, trustees, and even probate attorneys. A trust litigation lawyer helps trust beneficiaries bring an accounting proceeding to get a formal report on how the trust is being handled and try to get property back into the trust if it is missing. In the most egregious cases, such as where self-dealing and stealing from the trust can be shown, a trust litigation lawyer helps beneficiaries seek fiduciary removal. We can represent either side of the case – the beneficiary who is alleging stealing and the trustee who is saying that everything done in the trust was proper.
A Trust Litigation Lawyer Can Help Resolve Disagreements
Disagreements sometimes arise in trusts. Some trustees have a feeling of absolute power and act unreasonably towards the beneficiaries of trusts. On the flip sides, some beneficiaries mount unreasonable demands on a trustee. Some trust disagreements can be resolved without court intervention. This includes disagreements over sell vs. keep, valuation, who gets what, and items with intangible value. We strive to obtain the best possible distribution for our clients.
Unclear Language in a Trust
Unclear instructions sometimes occur when wills, trusts, and other disposition documents are not carefully drafted. Whether the ambiguities work out to your advantage or disadvantage, a trust litigation lawyer will make every effort to have the documents interpreted in your favor.
A Trust Litigation Lawyer Can Help in Kinship Disputes
When a relationship to the deceased is in question, a kinship proceeding arises and you need the help of an experienced trust litigation lawyer to prove your kinship and possibly exclude the kinship of others. In kinship proceedings, we may litigate over situations involving the need to look back multiple generations or unravel vague circumstances.
A trust litigation lawyer not only represents beneficiaries of the trust but also represents trustees when one of the following situations occur:
- Relatives of the decedent are trying to overturn the trust
- Beneficiaries are claiming that the trustee has done something wrong
- A person with an interest in the estate is trying to cancel a gift the decedent gave to the trustee
- An heir is trying to cancel a beneficiary designation
- A beneficiary is challenging the trustee’s qualifications
- A spouse of the decedent is presenting inflated spousal elective share claims
- Beneficiary or business partner is claiming a share of the business
A trust litigation lawyer can protect the trustee against unfair allegations.
Defend Trusts Against Trust Contests
A resident of New York has the right to cut people out of their trust. A trust litigation lawyer can help a trustee clear trusts of allegations and proceeding to close the trust and distribute assets to their rightful beneficiaries, sometimes with small settlements or no settlements at all.
A Trust Litigation Lawyer Can Defend Against Allegations of Trustee Wrongdoing
Trustees can be unjustly accused of taking funds or property of the trust and are accused of overspending on trust expenses. In such situations, a trust litigation lawyer will work with the trustees to remedy the situation and put any misunderstandings behind them.
Defend Pre-Death Gifts
People are within their right to make gifts during their lifetime. Those gifts are often challenged after the person who made the gift dies. Claimants make arguments that the person “did not really intend to make the gift” and that they were taken advantage of. A trust litigation lawyer will provide a vigorous defense to disprove the claimants’ arguments, and if need be, demonstrating that the giver made the gift of their own free will and that whatever issues the claimant has with the gift are not enough to change the fact that the gift was made. A trust litigation attorney often has the capacity to successfully defend most challenges to pre-death transfers of assets.
Defend Beneficiary Designations
Beneficiary designations can be challenged by the people who were not named as a beneficiary or who have received a lesser share than they expected. They will claim that the person who named beneficiaries to their assets was tricked into signing the form or they did not know what they were signing. It is up to the people making those claims to prove their case. Trust litigation lawyers do their best to dispute those claims, and to show the Court that the person who died made the beneficiary designation on their own free will, with full understanding, and without any technical defects.
A Trust Litigation Lawyer Can Defend Trustee Qualifications
Beneficiaries of trusts sometimes have a personal problem with the Trustee. Trust litigation lawyers often provide a simple solution to this potential problem by posting a bond, which is like insurance on the trustee’s potential misconduct. A bond sometimes works to put the beneficiaries at ease. If a bond cannot be posted or if the beneficiaries want the Trustee out no matter what, it is up to the beneficiaries to prove why the trustee is not qualified. A trust litigation lawyer will do his absolute best to show that the beneficiaries’ claim to have the Trustee disqualified are without basis.
Defend Against Inflated Spousal Elective Share Claims
A disinherited spouse is entitled to a claim of up to one-third of the decedent’s trust. A spouse is also entitled to a third of any property the decedent owned up to a year prior to their death, recapturing the property even if the decedent transferred the property to someone else before they died. A spouse can attempt to overvalue the entire trust in the hopes of receiving a higher elective share. Sometimes, a spouse attempts to include the trustee’s own property in the elective share valuation. If a spouse disagrees with the trustee over the amount of the elective share, it is up to the spouse to prove to the court how the trustee is wrong. Trust litigation lawyers vigorously defend trustees against a spouse’s attempt to overvalue an elective share.
A Trust Litigation Lawyer Can Defend the Trustee’s Share in a Business
Trustees are often in business together with the decedent, having worked in the same company sometimes for decades, has significantly contributed to the company, having a share in the company or receiving compensation from the business. Non-trustees who are not involved in the business tend to challenge the trustee’s share, ignoring the years of hard work that the trustee put into the business. A trust litigation attorney will work hard to show the court that the Trustee is entitled to the share of the business and to the income and control of the business.
Defend Claims Against the Trust
After a person dies, all kinds of people and entities make claims against their trust. The most common claimants are creditors, alleged business partners, life partners, ex-spouses, the IRS, and Medicaid. If often turns out that the alleged claimants cannot provide any sort of proof such as documents or testimony. Even if they do have a claim, it is often overstated. A trust litigation lawyer will fight hard to make sure that if a claim is even paid, the claimants only get a reasonable settlement amount.
Albert Goodwin is an experienced New York trust litigation lawyer who has successfully represented clients all over New York City, including New York County (Manhattan), Kings County (Brooklyn), Bronx County, Queens County, Richmond County (Staten Island), Nassau County in Long Island, and Westchester County (the White Plains court).
As a trust litigation lawyer, I take pride in my record of success. Whether you are a beneficiary and you feel that you are not getting a fair share of the trust or you are a trustee and you feel that you are being wrongly accused by the beneficiaries, you can let me let me handle the negotiations and proceedings, for a peace of mind that comes with knowing that your case is being handled by an experienced New York City trust litigation lawyer. You can give me a call at (212) 233-1233 or (718) 509-9774 and we can talk about your situation.