Estate & Fiduciary Litigation – Unpleasant and Complex

Family dynamics are complex, often change, and are almost always emotionally-charged – in either a negative or positive way. When it is perceived that an estate plan is inappropriate, or that representative, trustee, or fiduciary is acting irresponsibly or criminally as to an estate or probate matter, the response from family and friends involved is full of emotion and vitriol. But in order to find a remedy and see justice served, a legal advocate must rely on knowledge and skill in order to achieve a positive result in litigation.

Estate and fiduciary litigation – often more generally referred to as part of probate litigation – is a unique practice skill which is based upon a deep understanding of a nuanced and complex area of the law. Gary Altman, Esq., attorney and Certified Financial Planner™ since 1988, possesses such a deep understanding of this area of the law that he often serves as an expert in probate litigation cases. With Gary and the rest of the Altman & Associates team on your side, you will benefit from the knowledge and experience necessary in estate and fiduciary litigation.

Why Estate and Fiduciary Litigation Become Necessary

Not all estate plans are drafted or executed with the same level of quality and effectiveness. Wills and trusts are often poorly drafted because they are pulled from an online form or drafted by an inexperienced or sloppy professional. Whether drafted poorly or not, such documents are often not kept up to date. Therefore, older estate planning documents may not account for changes in assets, family dynamics, or tax treatment.

The person (or persons) selected as representative, trustee, or fiduciary may have seemed like a good choice at the time. However, circumstance may have changed and this selection may have violated his or her obligations to the estate. Such a position is not necessarily easy for a lay-person to hold, and this is why professionals like attorneys, accountants, or other licensed professionals often take over some or all of these roles.

In other cases, an estate plan might be well-executed and well-run, but one or more family members are convinced that they deserve a greater benefit from the estate. Whatever the case, the members of the estate do not deserve to suffer from inappropriate estate documents or poor representation of their interest. Likewise, responsible individuals overseeing an estate should not have to deal with unnecessary challenges.

Altman & Associates Can Help in a Number of Ways

Members of an estate often wonder what they can do if they are dissatisfied with some or all aspects of the estate. Conversely, many individuals charged with handling estates are not sure how to treat aggressive estate members who threaten litigation. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys offer counsel and advocacy regarding many types of estate and fiduciary litigation, including:

  • Reversal, Modification, or Reformation of Trusts: “Irrevocable” trusts are often thought to be 100% irrevocable. But circumstances, along changes to state laws, might prove that the irrevocable trust is actually subject to significant changes or revocability. Our attorneys help you understand whether a trust is legitimately serving its purpose, or is in need of amendment.
  • Challenges to Validity of Wills: The technical requirements for the physical form of a will often surprise people with their general simplicity. But the mental requirements for the drafter of a will are often far more complex – especially because the drafter of the will may execute a will, or an amendment to a will known as a codicil, later in life or while suffering from a condition which could cause death. Therefore, members of an estate often challenge a will based upon testamentary capacity, undue influence, mistake, fraud and duress, insane delusion, or a similar claim. Our estate and fiduciary litigation attorneys know how to understand and apply these standards to work for you.
  • Removal of Personal Representative, Trustee, or Fiduciary: Individuals charged with handling the assets of an estate have a fiduciary responsibility to the estate and members of that estate. When it is perceived that this responsibility has not been met, deep, often family-driven disputes can easily arise. The emotional nature of these disputes often clouds the fundamental legal question of whether the fiduciary responsibility has been met. We offer unparalleled knowledge and experience in exploring this critical legal question and staunchly advocating for you.

Estate and Fiduciary Litigation Requires Experienced Counsel

When you need top-notch estate and fiduciary litigation advocacy, we are ready to serve you with strength and sensitivity to your situation.  Estate and fiduciary litigation is never enjoyable, often emotional, and always extremely important to those involved. When considering or facing such litigation, schedule a consultation with us at one of our five convenient office locations to discuss how we can help.

Maryland Reformation of Trust Attorneys Advocate for Beneficiaries

Protecting your interests and your future

A properly-drafted trust is an important estate planning tool. It protects assets during the often-difficult probate process and provides for loved ones. But what happens when an irrevocable trust no longer functions in a way it was intended to or the laws have changed? How does a trust beneficiary receive the support they deserve? At Altman & Associates, our Maryland reformation of trust attorneys advocate for trust beneficiaries and enforce the intentions of the trust.

What is the difference between a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust?

There are similarities and differences between revocable and irrevocable trust:

  • Revocable trust: Most trusts are established within the lifetime of the creator (or settlor or grantor) of the trust, who is often the initial trustee and beneficiary, as revocable trusts. This means that the settlor or grantor of the trust may revoke the trust during his or her lifetime. Generally, a revocable trust will have specific provisions for amending the trust to adjust to the needs of the settlor and beneficiaries.
  • Irrevocable trust: Generally, an irrevocable trust may not be reformed or amended by anyone – even the person who created the trust cannot revoke or amend it once it is executed. Some irrevocable trusts are established during the lifetime of the grantor or settlor of the trust. More often, irrevocable trusts are created as testamentary trusts under a decedent’s Will or because revocable trusts automatically become irrevocable trusts upon the settlor’s death. Therefore, whatever conditions or benefits are set up at or before the time the trust becomes irrevocable usually stay that way.

Why would an irrevocable trust require reformation by a court?

Even the best-laid plans sometimes are unable to anticipate every possible major changes in the future. The same is true of trusts. Here are some examples of why a trust would require reformation:

  • A grantor has set a condition on an irrevocable trust which he or she no longer believes is appropriate.
  • A beneficiary experiences a major health or financial crisis
  • Tax laws change in such a way that a trust’s provisions are obsolete.
  • An irrevocable trust does not provide for a successor trustee and there is no way to appoint one in the future.
  • All of the beneficiaries agree that the trust is not functioning as it was originally intended to.

In some cases, it is necessary for interested parties to seek a reformation of or modifications to an irrevocable trust from a court. The attorneys at Altman & Associates are highly-experienced in making this legal process work for you.

New legislation is critical to whether a court will reform a trust

Due to recent legislation, the date a trust was created is a critical factor in seeking reformation or modification of the trust in court. On January 1, 2015, Maryland’s Uniform Trust Act will take effect. Among the advantages of the new law, an irrevocable trust can be reformed or modified with the consent of all of the trust beneficiaries if this action is consistent with the intent of the trust. There are many new laws regarding trusts, but they only apply to trust created on or before January 1, 2015. Our attorneys understand the intricacies of the new law, along with the case law and process regarding the reformation or modification of currently existing trusts.

Contact our experienced Maryland reformation of trust attorneys today for assistance

The attorneys at Altman & Associates advocate for you when you need to reform or modify a trust. We have convenient office locations in Columbia and Rockville. Contact us by phone at (301) 468-3220 or   to schedule a consultation.