Losing someone is painful. Sound estate planning can help ease the process by planning the distribution of wealth. However, trust and estates litigation can derail even the best-prepared estate plan. Unfortunately, issues often arise within the family and can cause you even more stress and pain. A family member may accuse another of wrongdoing, for example, such as accusing the trustee of the estate of self-dealing or fraudulent activity. Navigating such complex issues requires the advice and guidance of an experienced trust and estates litigation attorney to help you through such a stressful and painful time.
If you are facing a trust or estate dispute in Azle, Dallas, Fort Worth, Keller, Saginaw, or throughout the greater Tarrant County, The Law Office of Carey Thompson, PC, is here to help. Having guided numerous clients through estate planning and estate litigation matters, we understand what you are going through and are here to guide you to a successful outcome.
Estate Litigation: Contested Wills
If you believe that you’ve been wrongfully disinherited, or that someone else is wrongfully inheriting, having an experienced estate litigator can be the difference between being denied what’s yours and ensuring that a loved one’s assets are not wrongfully inherited by another. Our attorneys understand the unique rules that apply to probate litigation, as well as how those within the probate system may make the decisions about your case.
While every case is unique, there are four primary grounds for contesting a will, either in its entirety or in part:
- Defects in the Will — The Texas Probate Code is exceptionally strict with regard to the form, contents, and execution of a will. Issues with the will itself or its execution may stem from the effective date of the will being incorrect, an issue with the witnesses of the execution of the will, or the testator’s signature, all of which may render the will invalid.
- Capacity — A person must have the testamentary capacity to execute a will. To have the testamentary capacity, the person must be of sound mind. Psychological issues such as dementia or generally declining health may result in a person lacking testamentary capacity and therefore the will may be invalid.
- Undue Influence — Similar to requiring testamentary capacity, the person executing the will must not be under the undue influence of another. Undue influence results when the testator is manipulated to act in a certain way which may be contrary to his or her wishes. If a person has been threatened to include a certain provision in a will, that person would be under undue influence and the will, or at least that provision, would be invalid.
- Forgery — A will is only valid so long as the person executing the will is the testator.
If you believe that a will may be invalid for one or more of the foregoing reasons, or you have been accused of one of the foregoing claims, please contact the Law Office of Carey Thompson, PC, immediately.
Trust and Estates Litigation
Trusts are a common estate planning tool used to protect a person’s assets by placing property into a trust in which a designated individual (the trustee) manages the property for the benefit of another (the beneficiary). Because a trust is a contractual agreement between the grantor and the trustee for the benefit of the beneficiary, the trustee owes certain fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries, including:
- Duty of Loyalty — A trustee must at all times place the interests of the beneficiary above his or her own. A trustee may breach the duty of loyalty by acting in a manner that benefits the trustee to the detriment of the beneficiary.
- Duty to Disclose — A trustee must accurately disclose all material information to the beneficiary. A trustee may breach the duty to disclose by intentionally failing to report all material information related to the trust when such information is requested by the trustee.
- Duty to Exercise Reasonable Discretion — A trustee must make all discretionary decisions based on the purpose of the trust and all available information to best serve the interests of the trust and the beneficiary. A trustee may breach the duty to exercise reasonable discretion by failing to review all relevant information before deciding, such as investing the trust’s assets and not conducting due diligence for the investment.
- Duty of Competence — A trustee must act in a manner consistent with that of an ordinary person when conducting affairs of the trust. A trustee may breach the duty of competence by not keeping proper records if an ordinary person would have kept such records.
Fiduciary duties are governed by both common law and statute, and as a result, create a complex network of rules that must be considered when evaluating a potential breach of fiduciary duties. Most often, disputes arise from the specific language of the trust, such as defective language or form (as noted above for wills), or from the actions of the trustee.
Due to the complexity, retaining diligent counsel who is experienced with estate litigation is necessary to successfully defend your interests as a beneficiary or protect yourself as a trustee.
Fort Worth Trust and Estates Litigation Attorney
The Law Office of Carey Thompson, PC, is here to help you navigate estate-related disputes and protect your interests. We are more than just attorneys for our clients, we are here to help you through the most difficult times, whether inside or outside of the courtroom. Please contact our office today for a free consultation.