Estate and Trust Litigation Lawyers in Charlotte

The passing of a loved one is always difficult. In addition to planning for the memorial service and coping with the emotional loss, family members must contend with the probate process. In order to avoid the probate process, more people than ever are using trusts in their estate planning instead of creating a will. As a result, many estate disputes eventually become trust disputes that can ultimately lead to litigation. If you are involved in a trust dispute, you need an estate planning lawyer with courtroom experience who will represent you well during the trust litigation process.

Trust Contest

Trust contests are any lawsuit filed to invalidate a trust or challenge an amendment to a trust agreement. Estate and trust litigation typically arises when a family member or beneficiary disagrees with the terms of the will or trust. However, not everyone has the legal standing to file a lawsuit challenging a trust. Only individuals who can establish that they have a financial interest in the trust or those individuals who would inherit money or assets if the trust did not exist can bring a trust contest lawsuit. 

If you are a beneficiary named in the trust, you have a right to receive a copy of the trust and an accounting of the trust without obtaining a court order. Doing so is the first step in trust litigation. You and your lawyer can review the provisions of the trust before pursuing a trust contest. There are many different grounds for contesting a trust, and your lawyer will be able to advise you as to your best legal option.

Many trust contests challenge the grantor or creator of the trust’s capacity, claiming he or she was incapacitated when the trust was formed. Trust contests claiming that the person who created the trust lacked mental capacity are common. These types of trust challenges are somewhat difficult to prove, however. The person challenging the trust will need to show that the trust creator was legally incapacitated, which is not an easy thing to prove. A common trust contest occurs when a beneficiary argues that someone exerted undue influence over the trust creator, claiming that the trust, or term therein, would not exist if the trust creator was exercising their true free will. 

Claims Against Trustees

Another type of trust litigation involves claims against the trustee. The creator of the trust selects a trustee or trustees to manage the trust according to the provisions in the trust agreement. Under North Carolina law, all trustees must act in good faith and carry out the terms of the trust for the beneficiaries’ interest. Trustees cannot make decisions that benefit themselves personally. They must make decisions that benefit the beneficiaries who will receive money or assets from the trust.

When trustees act in their own interest or fail to carry out the terms of the trust, they are in breach of their fiduciary duty and violate North Carolina law. If you suspect that a trustee is not fulfilling his or her duties under the law, the best thing you can do is work with a qualified trust contest attorney to petition a North Carolina Court to remove the trustee in question. If you are a beneficiary of a trust, you have certain rights, including the right to see the trust assets’ annual accounting. A lawyer can help you gather the information you need to determine whether the trustee is violating their legal obligations.

Constructive Trusts

Constructive trusts are those trusts created by a court, not an individual or corporation. Courts may order a trust to be created to convey property or assets to a beneficiary. Typically, courts impose constructive trust when a trustee has breached his or her fiduciary duties when handling trust assets and, as a result, have unjustly enriched themselves.

Constructive trusts are rare and only used in limited circumstances. If you are involved in a constructive trust, whether as a trustee or a beneficiary, we recommend reaching out to a trust lawyer. Your lawyer will represent your best interests throughout the process.

Contact a Charlotte Trust Litigation Lawyer

The lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can assist you in contesting or defending a trust. Our attorneys have courtroom experience in litigation and are ready to use their experience to your advantage. Whenever a person is involved in trust litigation, whether as a trustee, a beneficiary, or a third party, hiring a lawyer is critical. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation at our Charlotte, Mooresville, or Monroe offices.