Hiring a Danville trust litigation lawyer is an important decision. At Barr & Douds, our SF Bay area trust litigators treat our clients’ matters as if they were our own. Throughout a trust dispute, a trust contest lawyer will provide experience-based legal advice and advocate effectively to protect your interests.
Danville Estate & Trust Litigation Attorney in Northern California
Danville Trust Litigation Lawyers Serving Northern California
Barr & Douds Attorneys is a well-known trust litigation law firm serving clients in Northern California. Our firm has a team of experienced attorneys who specialize in trust disputes and related litigation matters. Our legal services include representing clients in disputes related to the validity of trusts, breach of fiduciary duty, and other issues. Our Danville top trust litigation attorneys have a track record of successful outcomes for their clients in Northern California. With a focus on personalized attention and dedicated representation, Barr & Douds is the go-to law firm for clients seeking effective and efficient legal counsel for their trust dispute needs.
What Is a Trust?
A trust is a legal arrangement in which a person, known as a trustor or grantor, transfers assets to a third party, known as a trustee, to manage and distribute to beneficiaries according to the trust document’s terms. The trustor creates the trust document, which specifies the assets transferred, the beneficiaries, and the rules for managing and distributing the trust’s assets. Trusts can be used for a variety of purposes, such as avoiding probate, providing for the financial needs of a beneficiary with special needs, protecting assets from creditors, and minimizing taxes. There are different types of trusts, including revocable and irrevocable trusts, living trusts, and testamentary trusts, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Overall, trusts can be a useful estate planning tool for individuals seeking to manage and distribute their assets according to their wishes.
What Is Trust Litigation?
Trust litigation is the process of resolving trust disputes in a civil lawsuit in Probate Court. Often, the dispute centers around a significant issue in the trust or action or inaction of the trustee. Being an executor or a trustee is an important job, but for many, it is an unfamiliar role. Disputes over trust documents can land in court when the stakes are high – and the outcomes are life-changing. Having trust dispute attorneys behind you is imperative.
A common scenario is conflicting interpretations of what the deceased person intended or desired. Conflicts requiring an inheritance dispute lawyer can revolve around the handling of the trust assets, or undue influence by third parties or family members. Sometimes, cases center around strategic tax planning of distribution to heirs and moving assets to beneficiaries tax-free.
Matters Our Northern California Trust Dispute Lawyers Can Help With
The lawyers at Barr & Douds handle every aspect of estate and trust disputes, which often fall into the five categories discussed below:
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Disputes Over Trust Accountings
Disputes Between Co-Trustees
Petitions for Instructions
Every fiduciary trust estate litigation attorney at Barr & Douds has handled hundreds of trust litigation cases involving a breach of fiduciary duty. This can arise in a number of scenarios:
- Failing to follow the terms of the trust;
- Failing to avoid conflicts of interest;
- Failing to disclose relevant facts;
- Misappropriation of funds of the trust.
The breach of any of these fiduciary duties could give rise to a claim for trustee breach of fiduciary duty in California.
California law protects beneficiaries and requires trustees to act in their best interests. Beneficiaries often suspect that a trustee has breached their fiduciary duty, but they do not have any grounds to prove it. Trustees who have done nothing wrong are sometimes accused of wrongdoing by unreasonable or suspicious beneficiaries. Many disputes are resolved when the trustee discloses all the trust assets and transactions in a probate accounting.
The Probate Code provides that a trustee must provide beneficiaries with an annual accounting. The trust may waive this requirement, in which case the trustee need not account. However – even if the trust waives an accounting, a trustee must provide an accounting upon the request of a beneficiary. Upon a request, if the trustee does not provide an accounting within 60 days, the beneficiary may file a petition asking the court to order the trustee to file an accounting with the court.
Trustees are free to decline to serve – and sometimes this is the best choice. But what if a trustee refuses to resign? If a trustee has breached their fiduciary duty, they cannot be trusted to continue to serve in their role as trustee, with control over significant amounts of cash and securities, the management of real property, and other important responsibilities which, if neglected, could harm the beneficiaries’ interests. This can be a concern when trustees are known or suspected to have substance abuse or mental health issues, and a trust beneficiary attorney can help.
When our breach of trust attorney files a petition alleging a breach of fiduciary duty, we often also include a request that the trustee be removed and replaced with either another (successor) trustee named in the trust or a private professional fiduciary or corporate trustee. If the trustee’s behavior or actions are egregious, the court may suspend a trustee early in the case and appoint a temporary trustee.
Co-trustees are common, as many people are uncomfortable selecting one family member over another. Having two trustees can be problematic when there are decisions to be made and there is no unanimous agreement. Disputes requiring an inheritance dispute attorney can arise between cotrustees in several common scenarios
- One cotrustee wants to administer the trust quickly and the other drags his or her feet;
- One cotrustee takes a “lead” role and the other trustee is geographically far away and slow to communicate;
- The cotrustees disagree about how to dispose of a particular asset, such as a house or vacation home (perhaps a residence in Walnut Creek, a vacation home in Lake Tahoe, or a condo in San Francisco that one wants to sell and another wants to keep);
- One cotrustee will not communicate with the other;
- The cotrustees simply don’t get along; or worse, hate one another.
These scenarios often end with one cotrustee hiring a trust beneficiary lawyer and filing a petition to remove the other co-trustee, or filing a petition for instructions in which they ask the court to order a cotrustee to take a particular action.
Trustees often find themselves in a “damned if you do-damned if you don’t” situation. For example, one beneficiary wants to purchase a family home in San Francisco out of the trust, but no one can agree on a fair buy-out price. One beneficiary objects that the buy-out price is too low. Whatever he or she does could expose the trustee to a charge of breaching the duty of impartiality. In these situations, our trust litigation attorneys often recommend filing a “Petition for Instructions” under Probate Code Section 17200.
This procedure allows the trustee to explain their predicament to the court, offer a proposed solution, and ask the judge to approve their decision. The petition is then served on all the beneficiaries, who may object to the proposed solution and offer their own. While these petitions often involve issues of significant monetary value (like real estate and investment accounts), they are sometimes necessary for other reasons, such as the disposition of cherished family heirlooms.
Schedule a Consultation with a Danville Trust Contest Lawyer
Who Our Northern California Trust Litigation Attorneys Represent
As experienced trust litigation attorneys in Danville, we represent a wide range of clients in trust-related disputes. Our San Francisco Bay area clients include trustees, beneficiaries, heirs, and spouses. We understand the unique needs of each client and provide tailored legal solutions to help them achieve their goals.
As legal representatives of trustees, we provide guidance and representation in matters related to trust administration and management. We assist in resolving disputes related to the interpretation of the trust document, breach of fiduciary duty, and other issues that may arise during the administration of the trust.
Beneficiary / Heir
We represent beneficiaries and heirs in disputes related to their rights to receive distributions from a trust. We assist in contesting the validity of a trust or challenging the actions of a trustee that may be contrary to the interests of the beneficiaries. Our goal is to protect the rights and interests of our clients and ensure they receive the distributions to which they are entitled.
We represent spouses in trust litigation matters, that may arise when a spouse is involved in a trust. We provide personalized legal services to help our clients achieve their desired outcomes and protect their interests.
The Process of Estate Litigation in California
Estate litigation can be a complex legal process, involving a wide range of issues and parties. In California, the process of estate litigation typically involves several key steps, each with its own set of rules and procedures.
- Consultation: The first step in estate litigation is to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in this area of law. The attorney will review the facts of the case and advise the client on their legal rights and options.
- File a Petition: If the client decides to pursue litigation, the next step is to file a petition in the appropriate court. The petition will outline the legal claims being made and the relief being sought.
- Response: Once the petition is filed, the other parties in the case will have an opportunity to respond. This may involve filing an answer to the petition or filing a separate cross-petition with their own claims.
- Investigation and Discovery: After the pleadings are filed, both sides will engage in a process of investigation and discovery. This may involve requesting documents, conducting depositions, and exchanging information related to the case.
- Settlement: In many cases, estate litigation can be resolved through a settlement agreement. This may involve negotiations between the parties or mediation with a neutral third-party mediator.
- Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides will present evidence and arguments to the judge or jury, who will then make a decision on the legal claims being made.
Overall, estate litigation can be a lengthy and complex process, requiring the assistance of skilled and experienced attorneys. By understanding the steps involved, clients can better prepare themselves for what to expect and work towards a successful outcome.
Why Do You Need to Hire an Estate and Trust Litigation Lawyer in Danville?
There are a number of scenarios where you may need to hire a trust litigation attorney:
- You are a trustee who has made an error and you are not sure how to fix it.
- You are a trustee and a beneficiary has requested a trust accounting or evidence of trust assets or a trust balance.
- You are a trustee and have been accused of misconduct, or aren’t sure how to respond to a demanding or unreasonable beneficiary.
- You are a beneficiary and concerned about a trustee’s impartiality, honesty, or competence.
- You are a beneficiary and suspect undue influence.
- You are a beneficiary and a trustee has refused to provide you with the accounting you requested.
- You are a beneficiary and a trustee will not respond to your questions or communication.
- You are a co-trustee and your fellow co-trustee is uncooperative.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, our San Francisco Bay area trust litigation attorneys can help.
Why Choose Our San Francisco Bay Area Trust and Estate Litigation Attorney?
There are many benefits to hiring Barr & Douds for your estate or trust litigation matter in Danville, CA:
Our attorneys have practiced trust litigation in the Bay Area for many years. Because we know the courts and the legal process, we are able to avoid delays and mistakes and obtain results in less time than other law firms.
Committed to Client Satisfaction
Whether we are representing family members, trustees, or corporate fiduciaries, we understand that the stakes are high and trust disputes are highly sensitive. We are not afraid to take on complex or challenging cases and are often brought in “rescue” situations to help prior counsel.
At our law firm, we believe in providing each client with the personalized attention and support they need. We understand that every client is unique, and we work closely with each individual to develop a legal strategy that meets their specific needs and goals. Our attorney is committed to maintaining open communication with our clients and providing regular updates throughout the legal process.
Overall, our San Francisco Bay area trust and estate litigation attorneys offer clients the benefits of extensive experience and personalized attention, ensuring that their legal needs are met with professionalism, compassion, and skill.