Trust and estate litigation matters are particularly emotional and contentious, especially when the dispute involves family members. The grief suffered over the recent loss of a loved one often triggers tension and intra-family conflict, and this can give rise to misdirected anger and ultimately a lawsuit. Many probate, trust and estate disputes are disputes over family relationships as much as they are disputes over property.
A dispute may arise in probate or during the administration of a trust for a variety of reasons. Conflict may occur because of dissatisfaction with the decedent's estate plan. This frequently happens when an heir is disinherited, or receives a smaller share of the estate than his or her siblings. This can also occur in second marriage scenarios when the decedent's children are at odds with a stepparent.Disputes can also arise over the construction and validity of an estate planning document, or over allegations of fraud, coercion or undue influence. Disagreements are also common between beneficiaries of a trust or estate and a fiduciary. Family members may disagree over who should act as the fiduciary, or the beneficiaries may be concerned about accountings submitted by the fiduciary, financial decisions or investments made by the fiduciary, or other property management issues. If the fiduciary is also a beneficiary, concerns over potential conflicts of interest, whether real or imagined, can also lead to litigation.
At Mollis & Mollis, we are particularly sensitive to the costs incurred by our clients, and strive to resolve probate, trust and estate disputes in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. We often recommend mediation as an alternative to litigation, as mediation offers a way of resolving disputes in a more expeditious, and much less expensive, manner than going to trial. Mediation is particularly well-suited to resolving intra-family disputes, because it spares the parties from some of the emotional costs of litigation. Litigation by its nature tends to pit the parties against each other in an adversarial proceeding, whereas in mediation, the parties air their grievances in a confidential, private setting, and come to a mutually-agreed upon resolution rather than one imposed on them by a court.
Not all disputes can be resolved in mediation, and if a dispute arises during the course of the administration of an estate, litigation may be necessary to protect the best interests of our client. We routinely advise clients in disputes involving a trust or estate, and are prepared to prosecute or defend cases involving such matters as:
Probate, trust and estate litigation matters are extremely complex, requiring counsel with a thorough understanding of the underlying estate planning documents, probate code and probate court rules of procedure, and compelling advocacy skills. For skilled representation by an experienced trust and estate litigator, contact Mollis & Mollis, Inc. to schedule a consultation.