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What is Trust or Probate Litigation?

Attorney Reed Bloodworth, Founder and CEO of Bloodworth Law answers the question what is trust or probate litigation?

It is any legal dispute involving trustees and beneficiaries over a trust, or, a legal dispute involving beneficiaries or personal representatives about an estate.

What is Trust Litigation?

Trust litigation involves legal disputes over a trust between beneficiaries and trustees when either side has an issue that can’t be resolved, they hire attorneys to handle the trust disputes.

Every Florida trust names a trustee. A trustee is responsible for distributing and administering assets held in a trust to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of a trust.

Beneficiaries of a trust are those who receive assets from a trust.

What is Probate Litigation?

Let’s shift this conversation a little and talk about Probate Litigation. Probate litigation arises in a multitude of fashions.

Some of the more common types of probate litigation involve beneficiaries who believe they were improperly left out of an estate, or perhaps a will was amended and certain beneficiaries were excluded, while,  others were added, and the probate dispute begins.

What Is A Trust?

The first issue to address is what is trust?

  • A trust is a legal creation whose purpose is to hold assets for beneficiaries
  • A trust is controlled by a trustee

There are many types of trust. Some of the more common types of trust:

What is a Revocable Trust?

The term revocable trust means that the grantor, the person who is putting the assets into the trust, controls the trust and controls those assets for his or her lifetime.

What is an Irrevocable Trust?

What is an irrevocable trust? In an irrevocable trust, the grantor puts items into the trust but relinquishes control of those assets and the trustee will manage those assets for however long the trust is designated to last.

Why Create Trusts?

Why create trusts? Trusts are very beneficial in terms of estate planning. Items that are in trusts avoid probate. Probate can be lengthy, it can be expensive and trusts are a way that lawyers avoid that process for certain assets.

A Trust Litigation Scenario

Here’s a trust litigation scenario where a father has two children. He had a trust and the two children were the equal beneficiaries of the assets in that trust. However later in life, the father remarries.

The father is somewhat weak. Perhaps he’s sick, or perhaps he suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s. And the stepmother takes the father to an attorney. And she has the father create an amendment to the trust removing his biological children as beneficiaries, but adding her or adding herself and her children as beneficiaries.

This is a very common scenario for trust litigation where a second wife or second husband and step-children, biological children, and adopted children are involved.

What is Trust Litigation?

A common trust litigation instance is where biological children may bring an action against the trustee, to have it set aside for multiple reasons, sometimes involving step-children, and, or, adopted children.

It could be due to a lack of capacity. It could be undue influence. Or, it could be tortious interference with a testamentary expectancy. If it cannot be resolved, the parties involved begin trust litigation.

The dispute may negotiated through a settlement, it may be dismissed, or, it may become a lawsuit.

Causes of Action in Trust Litigation

Some other causes of action pertaining to the trust litigation in that context may include:

  • Accounting: Beneficiaries, or would-be beneficiaries, want to know where the assets went.
  • Trustee’s Duty: The trustee’s duty is to supply accounting to the trustees or to the beneficiaries.
    • So in that scenario, my law firm and I would represent either the trustees in defending a lawsuit brought by beneficiaries, or we could represent the beneficiaries bringing the suit against the trustees.

This is just a common scenario for trust litigation. It involves parties related to the trust to people that have interests in the trust or the estate.

Bloodworth Law represents beneficiaries, grantors, personal representatives, and trustees, yes, representing both plaintiffs and defendants.

Reed Bloodworth is the Founder and CEO of Bloodworth Law and is a 2022 U.S. News and World Report Best Lawyer in Trusts & Estates Litigation. When you have questions about probate or trust litigation, find out how Bloodworth Law can help you, your business, or your family.

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