EXPERIENCED. CAPABLE. DEDICATED.
- Will & Trust Litigation
- Elder Abuse
- Conservatorships & Guardianships
- Fiduciary Representation
- Probate & Trust Administration
- Real Estate
- Estate Planning
Many factors and situations can lead to will and trust litigation. Whether the issues involved are complex or routine, Morrill Law has the depth of experience and capacity to handle the matter.
Disputes often arise between the beneficiaries or heirs and the person (e.g., trustee, executor, or other fiduciary) who is administering the trust or estate, including:
- Disputes over the actions or inaction of a trustee or executor
- Disputes over the interpretation of the terms of trusts, amendments, wills, or codicils
- Breach of fiduciary duties, whether intentional or due to negligence
- Disputes regarding a fiduciary accounting or failure to account to beneficiaries or heirs
Trust or will contests can occur when issues arise regarding an individual’s mental capacity or incompetence, or cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Disputes are caused when the impact of these health issues results in concerns about the validity of trusts, amendments, wills, codicils, or other estate planning instruments.
Concerns that a change to a will or trust resulted from undue influence exerted by a trusted family member or other individual can also result in litigation.
The natural effects of age can render some elders particularly susceptible to unscrupulous individuals. Others are taken advantage of by those whom they most trust, including caregivers, friends, and, unfortunately, even their children. Frequently on fixed incomes or living on limited savings, elders often lack the resources to pursue claims against those who have wronged them.
The laws protecting elders provide a strong avenue for relief. In some cases, pursuing an elder abuse claim can result in the court imposing additional damages and awarding attorneys’ fees. Ensuring that vulnerable elders receive the protection and justice they deserve requires legal counsel that understands the scope of financial elder abuse. Likewise, individuals or entities facing accusations of financial elder abuse need solid representation. In either case, Morrill Law provides exceptional counsel and representation in the area of financial elder abuse.
Conservatorships are an important tool to help protect an individual who no longer has the mental or physical ability to manage their own healthcare or finances, which may make them especially vulnerable to fraud or undue influence. In most cases, a family member or friend may ask the court to appoint a trusted person to manage the individual’s affairs and establish a conservatorship.
Conservatorships are often utilized for the elderly, but can also be helpful for adults of any age who have suffered an illness or injury that impacts their ability to care for themselves, or for individuals dealing with severe mental illness or physical disabilities. A guardianship creates a unique legal relationship between a child and a guardian. Unlike adoption, guardianships preserve the legal relationship between the child and his or her natural parents.
The role of a fiduciary in administering a trust is important and, depending on the issues involved in the trust, can also be complicated. A private professional fiduciary may be appointed to replace a designated Trustee when improprieties occur or when disagreements arise among Co-Trustees.
Morrill Law routinely represents and advises private professional fiduciaries in contested trust and probate administrations, conservatorships and guardianships of the estate or person.
Although trust administration is not a court-supervised process, it requires a thorough understanding of the complex financial issues involved, in order to ensure that the terms of the trust are carried out as intended. Morrill Law routinely works with trustees to expertly handle the myriad responsibilities associated with administering a trust, including sending statutory notices, identifying and taking inventory of trust property, paying debts, organizing trust assets for distribution, identifying heirs and beneficiaries, paying taxes, and distributing the assets of the trust to the beneficiaries.
After a decision is made by a judge or jury, a losing party has the right to appeal to a panel of judges who review the court’s ruling and decide if it conforms with the current body of law. The process is very different from what happens in trial court, and decisions by the judges’ panel are primarily based on written briefs.
Probate appeals provide an exception that allows non-parties (i.e., individuals not involved in the prior court proceeding) to bring an appeal, which can provide a significant advantage to the non-party. An appeal requires thorough, deliberate analysis and exceptional written advocacy. Morrill Law is experienced in all aspects of appellate work, including probate appeals.
Real estate concerns often arise during the estate planning, probate and trust administration processes and are frequently the focus of trust and estate litigation. Morrill Law advises clients on structuring real property transfers, as well as on partition actions, encumbered property, joint ownership, purchase and sale agreements, title and lender issues, and unlawful detainer actions.
Everyone needs an estate plan. Creating a will or trust is only part of the planning process. Many other issues should also be considered in order to fully address your estate planning needs, including financial, tax, medical, and business planning.
An estate plan will effectively manage your property and assets while you are living and can be updated as needed and circumstances change. The plan will arrange for the passing of your property and assets to your family and/or selected beneficiaries upon your death. Planning your estate may involve making gifts and buying insurance, and creating a will, living trust, health care directives, durable power of attorney for finances, and other essential documents.
A comprehensive estate planning will help you determine:
- How and by whom your assets will be managed for your benefit during your lifetime, if you become unable to manage them yourself.
- When and under what circumstances your assets may be distributed during your lifetime.
- How and to whom your assets will be distributed after your death.
- How and by whom your personal care will be managed and how health care decisions will be made, if you become unable to care for yourself.
- Who will handle your property, assets, and affairs after your death.