Trusts & Estates Litigation

Trusts and Estates Litigation

After the death of a family member, it is not uncommon for the decedent’s will or trust to be disputed. Challenges commonly arise when a sibling or other family member claims the creator of a trust was unduly influenced or a beneficiary received more or less than expected. Sometimes actions or expenditures by the decedent’s trustee might be challenged.

While you might think you can handle these situations on your own without a trusts and estates litigation attorney, we don’t advise it. These situations can become tense and emotional and may lead to serious legal liability on behalf of the trustee or others. Often such litigation includes allegations of elder abuse or financial elder abuse, which can impose liability for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs.

It is therefore essential to have an experienced trusts and estates litigation attorney working on your behalf who can properly represent you, or your family’s estate. The attorney will take care of the legal issues so you can focus on recovering from the loss of your loved one.

What Is the Difference Between an Estate and a Trust?

When discussing a loved one’s estate and trust, it’s important to know the key differences.

An estate is everything a person owns at their death. This can include their checking account, car, other personal property, and real property. Typically, a person executes a will to determine who inherits this property.

In contrast, a trust is created by a trustor who transfers assets to a trustee. The trustee then holds the assets for the designated beneficiaries. The trustee is usually the person who created the trust (called the settlor), at least while the settlor is alive and mentally competent to handle his or her own affairs. If the settlor loses the ability to manage his or her finances during his or her lifetime, the successor trustee will take over to manage the estate. The successor trustee has specific legal responsibilities both during and after the settlor’s lifetime and may be held liable to the beneficiaries of the trust following the settlor’s death.

Why You Need a Trusts and Estates Litigation Attorney 

Trust litigation can be enormously complex and involve an array of legal issues, including elder financial abuse, competency of the settlor to execute the trust instrument, interpretation of contracts, title to real property, and many others. Trust litigation cuts across a broad spectrum of legal issues.

An experienced attorney can handle the legal aspects of the case so you don’t have to worry about emotional confrontations with your relatives. We can also work with the other family members’ attorneys to try to avoid litigation, represent your interests, and resolve disputes.

Evans Kingsbury LLP has the experience to handle your case, whether litigating the issues in court, or at a negotiation table. We will work with family members, heirs, and beneficiaries to get you the outcome you can all live with.

Types of Cases We Handle

We handle a variety of trusts and estates litigation cases and represent a variety of clients. We work with trustees, personal representatives, beneficiaries, and others in an array of cases, including:

  • Will and trust contests and proceedings. This can include issues related to the validity of the documents, claims of undue influence, and more.
  • Construction of wills and trusts.
  • Interpretation of wills and trusts.
  • Proceedings to determine heirs and beneficiaries.
  • Cases related to guardianships and conservatorships.
  • Accounting issues and compliance proceedings regarding trust administration.
  • Real estate claims and disputes.

In addition to these, we also counsel our clients on policies and procedures they will need to follow, and ways to potentially avoid litigation.

How Trusts and Estates Litigation Attorneys at Evans Kingsbury LLP Can Help

Noreen Evans and Deirdre Kingsbury have represented trustees, beneficiaries, and even attorneys in probate cases at both the trial and appellate levels. Attorney Evans has worked with California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, first as a California State legislator from 2004 – 2014, and now as a private attorney. Deirdre Kingsbury was also the successful appellate attorney in Bonfigli v. Strachan (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 1302, one of the leading cases brought under California’s elder financial abuse statutes. Protecting the interests and desires of our elders is an important mission at Evans Kingsbury LLP.

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