Trust and estate litigation matters are particularly contentious and emotionally-charged, especially when the dispute involves family members. The grief suffered over the recent loss of a loved one often creates tension among family members, and this tension can give rise to misdirected anger and ultimately a lawsuit. A death in the family can rekindle long dormant family disputes and trigger intra-family conflict. Many probate, trust, and estate disputes are actually disputes over family relationships as much as they are disputes over property.
Nature of Trust and Estate Disputes
A dispute may arise in probate for a variety of reasons. Conflict may occur because of dissatisfaction with the decedent's estate plan. This frequently happens when an heir is disinherited, or receives a smaller share of the estate than his or her siblings. This can also occur in second marriage scenarios when the decedent's children are at odds with a stepparent.
Disputes can arise over the construction and validity of an estate planning document, or over allegations of mistake, fraud, coercion, or undue influence. Disagreements are also common between beneficiaries of a trust or estate and a fiduciary. Family members may disagree over who should act as the fiduciary, or the beneficiaries may be concerned about financial decisions or investments made by the fiduciary, or other property management issues. If the fiduciary is also a beneficiary concerns over potential conflicts of interest, whether real or imagined, can also lead to litigation.
Mediation of Trust and Estate Disputes
When an intra-family dispute arises, we urge mediation as an alternative to litigation. Mediation provides a less formal and more expeditious way of reaching a resolution, and is significantly less expensive than going to trial. Trust and estate litigation is emotionally and financially expensive, and we often remind clients that their deceased loved one did not intend for lawyers to become the beneficiary of the estate. Our goal is to achieve a favorable resolution for our client, with minimal expenditure of attorneys' fees and litigation costs.
Mediation also allows the parties to avoid some of the emotional costs of litigation. Litigation tends to pit one party against another in an adversarial proceeding. In mediation, the parties air their grievances in a private setting, and the confidentiality of the process allows them to openly discuss difficult issues and hopefully forge a mutually agreed upon resolution, rather than one which is imposed upon them by the court. Because the parties work together to reach a resolution, they are more likely to repair or maintain their family relationships.
Trust and Estate Litigation and Appeals
Some disputes cannot be resolved in mediation. In the event that litigation is required, our attorneys are experienced litigators with an established track record of achieving successful results on behalf of clients, both at the trial and the appellate levels. Our attorneys have represented clients in precedent setting cases that have helped shape the law in the area of probate, trust, and estate litigation, and we receive many referrals from other attorneys in Hawaii and the mainland who know of our reputation for favorably resolving difficult and challenging cases.
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel
Probate litigation matters are complex and require experienced legal representation. Our probate, trust, and estate litigation lawyers have the knowledge, experience, and advocacy skills to successfully represent your interests. Contact the Law Offices of Taylor, Leong & Chee for a consultation.