Estates & Trust Litigation
Wills, trusts and other testamentary instruments are legal documents and as such, they are subject to challenge, interpretation, and enforcement by the courts. The attorneys at Brault Graham in Rockville apply decades of sophisticated legal and litigation experience toward the resolution of will contests, trust contests and other probate and estate litigation in and around the Baltimore-Washington D.C. corridor. The firm handles all of the following types of disputes, and more:
Challenges to a will may occur when a new will has been executed and an older will revoked, when there appear to be multiple wills in existence, or when the will admitted to probate has been modified at some point. The execution of a will, or its modification or revocation, must follow strict statutory formalities to be valid. In addition to claims a will was improperly executed, common challenges include a lack of capacity on the part of the testator; the presence of fraud, duress, coercion or undue influence; or a mistake of fact. Will challenges typically come when an heir would be better off taking under an old will or according to the rules of intestate succession, or in the case of an omitted heir.
As with wills, trusts must meet certain requirements in order to be valid. For instance, they must be in writing and created for a proper purpose by a competent settlor, there may not be one person acting as sole trustee and beneficiary, and there typically must be a definite or definitely ascertainable beneficiary named in the trust. Apart from the validity of a trust, trust-related litigation frequently involves attacks on the trustee in the performance of any number of fiduciary duties, such as investing assets, conducting trust accountings, and settling the estate and distributing property. Trust litigation may include actions to remove a trustee for negligence or misconduct, and to recoup any losses linked to the trustee’s activities.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims
While a trustee holds legal title to property, the trustee is subject to several fiduciary duties, including loyalty and impartiality; prudent, safe and productive investment of trust assets; and avoiding self-dealing and conflicts of interests. The executor or administrator of an estate has fiduciary duties as well, as do other professionals who may be involved in probate or trust or estate administration. These professionals may include insurance agents, real estate brokers, and attorneys. Property managers must also take care to manage the property in a way that avoids liability for a slip and fall or other personal injury claim. Disputes over the management of the estate or an estate accounting most frequently arise when the personal representative of the estate is also an heir or beneficiary.
Familial internecine disputes most often arise in the case of a second marriage, with disputes occurring between children from the first marriage and the step-parent or step-siblings from a subsequent union. In single marriage situations, disputes may still arise from a disinherited child or an heir who receives a smaller share of the estate than similarly-situated class members.
Experienced Legal Representation in the Resolution of Will & Trust Disputes
Brault Graham represents personal representatives of an estate, heirs and beneficiaries, trustees, conservators and guardians in the full range of estate and trust litigation. Contact our office at 301-424-1060 for assistance in Washington, Baltimore and surrounding areas.