Trust & Probate Litigation
Trust litigation and probate litigation involve disputes:
- concerning the administration of a trust or estate
- claims of financial elder abuse
- challenging the validity of a will or trust
- and more
These disputes can be among family members, or involve claims by the beneficiaries against the fiduciary in charge of the estate or trust.
Financial Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse Claims
In California, an elder is classified as any person sixty-five (65) years of age or older. A dependent adult is someone who is between the ages of 18 and 64 who has certain medical or physical disabilities that prevent them from being able to perform normal activities or protect themselves. Financial elder or dependent abuse claims are considered quasi-civil in California. This means that depending on the nature of the remedy you are seeking, you can file your claim in civil court or probate court. This is an important decision because it can determine whether you are entitled to a jury trial as opposed to a court trial before a probate judge. The remedies available are also important as the Elder Abuse and Dependent Civil Protection Act (EADACPA), which was passed by legislature in 1982, provides heightened remedies for elder or dependent abuse, including but not limited to attorney's fees, punitive damages, pain and suffering damages and other costs.
Financial elder abuse usually involves claims where a person or persons have intentionally deprived the elder or dependent adult of a property right. This can include taking money without permission, changing title to accounts or real estate under false pretenses, or unduly influencing the person to change their will or trust against their true wishes.
Trust or Will Contest
When a trust or will is not properly executed, or if is the product or fraud or undue influence, it may be attacked and set aside under California Law. This process involves filing a petition with the appropriate probate court to have the testamentary document set aside. The challenger of the document is required to prove the defect in the document, or the fact that it was the product of fraud or undue influence. Depending on the reason for contesting the document, there are different burdens that must be met. It is important to consult with a Trust & Probate Litigation Attorney who can review your case and advise you on the best course of action.
Breach of Trust
A breach of trust occurs when the trustee fails to meet one of their legal duties under the California Probate Code or carry out the terms of the trust as required. A trustee owes specific fiduciary duties to beneficiaries under California law. A breach of trust claim is filed in probate court by an interested party. Remedies can include removal of the trustee, money damages, reduction or elimination of the trustee's compensation, or surcharge against the trustee's beneficial interest in the trust if they are also a beneficiary. If you believe that a trustee has committed a breach of trust, please contact Hollingsworth Law Firm for a consultation to determine whether you should pursue a legal action.