Probate and Trust Litigation
When someone passes away, their estate must be settled in the eyes of the law. This involves going through a probate process, where the deceased’s heirs are notified, assets are inventoried, and remaining debts are tabulated and paid.
Probate is notoriously rife with conflict, and many common disputes will require litigation to resolve. Many issues center on the authenticity of the deceased’s last will and testament. In order to be valid and enforceable, the document must have been signed by the testator in the presence of at least 2 witnesses. The testator must also have been mentally competent at the time of signing and not be subject to any undue influence.
All heirs of a deceased individual are formally notified as part of the probate process. They are also informed of the will’s contents, which can sometimes be controversial and have surprising omissions. Some family members may look to contest the legitimacy of the will when they are excluded or are otherwise frustrated about the testator’s decisions.
Probate cannot proceed – and the deceased’s final instructions cannot be honored – until will contests are resolved. Our Chicago estate planning lawyers can assist you with each stage of the will contest process and will fight to ensure your and your loved ones’ interests are protected.
Trusts are not generally subject to probate but can also experience conflicts requiring legal action. Each trust is overseen and managed by a trustee that has fiduciary duties to the trustor and the beneficiaries of the trust. If a trustee fails to uphold these responsibilities, they can be sued, removed, and held accountable for any financial losses.
Our team at Regas, Frezados & Dallas LLP can assist you with many trust-related conflicts, including:
- Accounting Discrepancies. Trustees must maintain detailed financial records of all elements of the trust. They are required by law to submit an annual report that details any and all transactions as well as the current state of the trust. We can assist individuals and families who believe a trust’s accounting is inaccurate or inadequate.
- Property Issues. Many types of trusts give trustees a fair amount of discretion in making investments and managing the trust’s contents. However, disputes can arise when a trustee appears to be making poor decisions that endanger the health of the trust. They can also result from situations where a trustee fails to distribute assets in accordance with the trustor’s written instructions. Our firm can explore litigation options for any situation where a trustee is failing to act appropriately.
- Trust Contests. Living trusts are typically managed by the trustor instead of a third party. When the trustor passes away or becomes incapacitated, a named successor trustee will assume control of the trust and its contents. The successor trustee, beneficiaries of the trust, and any other heirs of the trustor will have the opportunity to review the trust’s instructions. If the trust instructions appear to be fraudulent, the result of undue influence, or unlawful, a trust contest may be pursued to address and resolve the issue. We can evaluate these situations and represent you in trust contests.
- Trust Ambiguities. Trusts are built on the instructions and intentions of the trustor. When an instruction is ambiguous, interested parties will likely advocate for favorable and potentially conflicting interpretations, especially if a tremendous amount of assets is on the line. Our team can assess trust language ambiguities and work to resolve any conflicts as efficiently as possible.