Trust Litigation Attorney
A trust is a legal entity that is created by an individual (the trustor) and managed by a trustee for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. The trust may be created when the trustor is alive. Alternatively, it may be created immediately upon the trustor’s death, in which case it may act to distribute assets in place of or in conjunction with a will.
The creation of a trust must follow the requirements of Texas law; therefore, the validity of a trust may be the subject of trust litigation. Just as a will can be challenged and contested, so too can a trust be challenged on such issues as fraud, duress, undue influence, coercion, or lack of capacity. Each such challenge has specific legal standards and is best explained by an experienced trust litigation attorney.
However, typical issues in trust litigation do not involve the validity of the trust, but rather more so the manner in which the trust is being administered. It is important to understand that a trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the beneficiaries’ best interests as indicated by the trust terms. A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of duty implied by Texas law.
A well-crafted trust is quite detailed and specific, but no trust can be written to anticipate every contingency that may occur. Thus, trustees are given some measure of discretion in how they administer the trust. How the trustee exercises this discretion may trigger trust litigation.
It is not uncommon for trusts to be created whereby a trustee is also a beneficiary. This regularly occurs in family trusts where once the parents are deceased, the estate passes to the surviving children with one child designated as the trustee. That trustee must not make any decisions or act in any way that places his or her interests ahead of the other beneficiaries.
The primary right the beneficiary of a trust has is the right to a full and transparent accounting of all trust assets and all trust activity. The beneficiary may demand such from the trustee, but trust litigation may be necessitated if the trustee either refuses or provides less than a full accounting.
If you are either a trustee dealing with inquiries from the beneficiaries or a beneficiary trying to understand your options, a consultation with an attorney experienced in trust litigation matters is the best way to understand and protect your rights. For a free initial consultation, contact our attorney today.