Probate and Trust Litigation

Probate and Trust Litigation

As our population ages, disputes regarding estate plans have become one of the fastest growing areas of litigation in the country.  Known as trusts and estates litigation, or fiduciary litigation, these cases require a complex understanding of both litigation and estate planning.  At Mitchell, Brown & Associates, we combine decades of litigation experience with an in-depth knowledge of estate planning and probate administration to protect the rights of our clients. 

Our fiduciary litigation practice includes the following: 

Trust and Will Contests 

Sometimes an estate plan just does not make any sense.  The classic example is when the frail and vulnerable father changes his estate plan months before death to disinherit his children in favor of a caretaker.  Trust and will contests involve challenges to an estate plan based on some form of undue influence, lack of capacity, or fraud.  If successful, these challenges result in the estate plan being thrown out and the estate will be distributed based on a prior estate plan or as if the person did not prepare one. 

Trustee and Fiduciary Removal Actions 

An estate plan involves naming someone to act on behalf of others, often referred to as a “fiduciary.”  Fiduciaries include a trustee of a trust, a personal representative under a will, and an agent under a power of attorney.  The goal of the estate plan is to follow the wishes of the person creating the estate plan.  This goal depends on the fiduciary performing his or her job.  Unfortunately, this does not always happen.  When a fiduciary fails to do his or her job it may be necessary to go to court to remove and replace that person. 

Demands for Accountings and Discovery of Assets Actions 

One of the most common complaints of beneficiaries of an estate plan is that they do not know what is in the estate, or what the trustee is doing.  Beneficiaries have rights to basic information regarding the estate, either based on the language of the estate plan itself or under Missouri law.  When attempts to obtain this information fail it may be necessary to go to court to enforce these rights. 

When a listing of probate assets, or inventory, appears to be incomplete it is necessary to file a claim in probate to find missing assets.  Through a discovery of assets action, heirs can track down assets that rightfully belong in the probate estate. 

Contested Guardianships

A guardianship involves removing a person’s rights for his or her own protection.  As such, guardianship is one of the most significant things a court can do.  In a guardianship, the judge must decide not only if a guardianship is necessary but also who should be the guardian.  We help individuals protect their rights in guardianship, and to ensure that the right person is appointed as guardian.