Probate and trust litigation can involve a unique variety of disputes, which involve much more than money. A will may be challenged on the grounds that the person executing the will lacked capacity, or was subject to undue influence. A trustee may be accused of failing to administer a trust properly. These examples, among many other issues that may arise, encompass emotional matters as well as financial ones that can divide families. It may become necessary to involve outside assistance, including mediation, court assistance and more. Nikki Allen has the right combination of knowledge of trusts and estates combined with proven litigation skills in both probate and trust litigation as well as contract litigation. Ms. Allen will work with you to achieve the desired outcome for your family and loved ones. Hiring Ms. Allen helps her clients take the emotion out of the situation and lets them live stress free.
Probate is the legal process by which the property and assets owned by someone who passed away without a trust is transferred to the person’s heirs. In simpler terms, probate is simply determining who gets what assets when someone passes away. If the person passes away with a Will and not a trust, then the heirs must go to court to “probate” the Will, and the terms of the Will dictate how the property and assets will be distributed. If no Will exists, then the laws of intestacy–laws that determine the hierarchy of heirs–govern the distribution of the property and assets.
The probate process, which transfers legal title of property, is supervised by the court and can take, on average, 9-12 months. Probate laws are complicated, and Nikki Allen is an experienced attorney who will help you successfully navigate the probate process.
When the person who created the Trust (Settlor) passes away, the Successor Trustee engages in trust administration. The first step is the transfer of control of the Trust assets to the Successor Trustee. The Successor Trustee becomes responsible for notifying the beneficiaries of the death of the Settlor, collecting and accounting for the assets of the Trust Estate, paying the expenses of administration and taxes, and distributing the Trust Estate assets according to the terms of the Trust. Trust administration is strictly regulated by California law, and failure to comply with the law or the terms of the Trust can subject the Successor Trustee to liability for breach of fiduciary duty or breach of trust. The laws for trustees are strict, but we work with you to make sure they understand the process and walk you through each of the steps so that it is not overwhelming for you. Nikki Allen can economically help you administer the Trust in compliance with your legal and fiduciary duties.
Will and Trust Litigation:
In most instances, a probate case or a trust administration is handled without any contentious litigation. However, if someone contests or challenges a Will or a Trust, there will be a lawsuit which generally involves complex legal issues and may result in a trial.
This type of conflict typically occurs when a beneficiary was disinherited in a Will or is unhappy with the distribution given to him in the Will. Litigation is also common when there is a second marriage and children from the first marriage disapprove of any money or assets passing to the new spouse or when there is a dispute among siblings who do not receive equal distributions under the Will or Trust. Another common type of dispute is when a beneficiary alleges that the trustee breached his or her fiduciary duty to the beneficiary.
You should seek the counsel of an attorney to advocate on your behalf both in court and in an attempt to reach a settlement with the opposing party or parties outside of a court setting. Oftentimes, these cases are emotional, and an attorney can assist with the difficult family dynamics. Attorney Nikki Allen has the combined experience of estate planning, probate and civil litigation, which makes her uniquely qualified to handle these types of disputes.