Probate and Trust Disputes
Many people have the foresight to draft a will or set up a trust in hopes of protecting their assets and preventing confusion over the distribution of their estate. While taking such measures is prudent, it is often insufficient to prevent disagreements, and many probate and trust disputes can only be resolved via litigation. If you need assistance navigating the complexities of a probate lawsuit, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Honolulu probate litigation attorneys of Bickerton Law Group LLLP are proficient at obtaining favorable results in probate and trust disputes, and if you hire us, we will gather the evidence needed to help you seek the outcome you deserve.Probate and Trust Disputes Arising Out of Undue Influence
The precise assertions set forth in probate litigation and the evidence needed to prove such allegations will vary depending on the facts of the case. In many probate actions, the moving party will argue that the terms of a will or trust do not reflect the testator or founder’s true intent. It is important to note that a will or trust cannot be challenged for any arbitrary reason, however. Instead, there are specific grounds for contesting a will or trust. For instance, in Hawaii, a party can challenge a will or trust on the basis that it is the alleged product of undue influence.
In order to establish undue influence under Hawaii law, the plaintiff must first show that the testator or grantor was susceptible to being unduly influenced by a third party. In other words, that they had a mental weakness that made them vulnerable to undue influence. Such weaknesses can be the result of the relationship between the testator or grantor and third party or can be a symptom of their age or a facet of their personality.
Next, the plaintiff needs to demonstrate that the third party had both the opportunity to influence the testator or grantor and the disposition to do so. In other words, they must prove the third party had a chance to control the testator regarding the disposition of their assets as well as the desire to control the testator. Finally, the plaintiff has to prove that the will or trust reflects the third party’s undue influence.
In cases involving trust amendments, if the parties that support the amendment held a fiduciary or confidential relationship with the grantor, it is presumed that undue influence exists. The burden then shifts to the proponent to demonstrate a lack of undue influence.
Undue influence can be proven through direct or circumstantial evidence. If the judge or jury determines that a will or trust was executed as a result of undue influence, it may be invalidated or set aside.Other Grounds for Probate and Trust Disputes
Trust and probate disputes can arise for other reasons as well. For example, probate litigation frequently arises out of allegations that the grantor or testator lacked the mental capacity to create or modify a will or trust. Similarly, a family member of the decedent or beneficiary of a trust or will might challenge the formation, execution, or revocation of a will or trust document. In other instances, parties may disagree over the meaning or intent of certain provisions within a will or trust. Conflicts can also arise among beneficiaries who disagree over their share of the estate or the distribution of assets or who believe they are not being treated equally. Parties may also pursue claims against trustees or personal representatives for mismanagement of assets, improper fees, self-dealing, or failing to fulfill their duties.“No Contest” Clauses in Wills and Trusts
Heirs to an estate or beneficiaries to a trust, also, often may be wary of challenging what they believe to be an invalid document because of the insertion of a “No Contest” clause in the subject document which says that anyone challenging the will or trust will lose their inheritance or bequest, in full. Such clauses, however, are far from absolute, and good faith court challenges based on valid concerns – (as opposed to mere dissatisfaction with what one it to take) – will often be permitted, notwithstanding the inclusion of a No Contest clause in the relevant testamentary document. Anyone facing the possible attempted application of a No Contest provision against their interest should certainly consult with an attorney before taking any legal action challenging the validity of a will or trust to determine the level of risk of such a challenge. A significant amount of case law has developed over the years applicable to these sorts of clauses which an experienced attorney can explain and help one navigate.Meet with a Capable Honolulu Probate Litigation Attorney
Even a comprehensive estate plan cannot prevent issues from arising in the future, and probate and trust disputes are unfortunately common. If you have questions about what measures you can take to protect your interests with regard to a probate or estate matter, it is wise to meet with an attorney. The capable Honolulu probate litigation attorneys of the Bickerton Law Group LLLP are well-versed in what it takes to prevail in probate court, and if you engage our services, we can assess the facts of your case and advise you of your options for pursuing a just outcome. We have an office in Honolulu, and we frequently represent people in probate lawsuits in Honolulu and cities throughout Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Counties. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at (808) 599-3811 to set up a confidential meeting.