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Business Law
Serving The Woodlands

Estate

Estate and Trust Litigation

Sometimes there’s a flaw in a document. Sometimes an heir has good reason to be unhappy. Sometimes a member of the immediate family has been left out – by accident or design. Sometimes there’s a new will or codicil that was signed under dubious circumstances. Sometimes the assets of a trust have inexplicably vanished.

Lawsuits against wills, trusts, estates, trustees, executors, and or administrators can be filed any time, for almost countless reasons. From challenging the legitimacy of a will to the final disbursements from a decades old trust, some issues arise that may only be resolved in a courtroom.

Every estate and trust lawsuit share several characteristics – they are stressful, emotionally charged, and complex.

Stress, complexity, and emotions are an incendiary combination.

The attorneys at Hopkins Centrich Law have the experience, knowledge, and temperament to successfully guide clients through what could otherwise be a traumatic experience in the hands of a less experienced, knowledgeable, and skillful attorneys.

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Starting an Estate Plan

The word ‘holistic’ has been overused for years, but sometimes it’s the only word that fits. As it does for estate planning. It is hard to overstate how important it is to consider a myriad of seemingly unrelated facts and feelings in designing an estate plan that will accomplish what our clients need it to

It begins with communication. No one wants to contemplate their mortality. It’s difficult to talk about for even the most pragmatic of clients. Making provisions for family members, a business, a home is never as simple as ‘divvying up the assets.’

There are many considerations – state and federal laws, taxes, family situations, emotions - and every decision results in a new set of issues.

Hopkins Centrich Law has years of experience guiding clients through the labyrinth that estate planning can become. Our ability to relate and empathize with our clients is as important as our deep knowledge of the law and taxes.

We know estate planning is as much an art as a science. It can be emotional. It can be complex - even our most sophisticated clients will find some instruments, some taxes, some solutions arcane and/or complicated. At first, we pride ourselves on our ability to make the most complex estates and solutions easy to understand.

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Will Contests

A well-drawn will clearly lays out the testator’s intentions and does exactly what it is designed for: honor the maker’s last wishes.

Issues arise when a clause or provision is ambiguous; heirs have been inexplicably omitted; and/or the circumstances and timing of the execution of the will seem suspect.

Wills may be contested if:

  • Someone ‘unduly influenced’ the testator by deception, fraud, or, more commonly, coercion.
  • A ‘last minute’ codicil was added to the will even though the testator lacked the capacity to understand.
  • Someone changed the will.
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Estate Disputes

Executors are named by a will. Administrators are appointed by a court when there is no will. Executors and administrators represent the estate and are bound by the same fiduciary duties to act in its best interest.

They are expected to identify the estate’s assets and debts; sell what needs to be sold; manage what needs to be managed; find every beneficiary; obtain valuations; keep meticulous records; and, eventually, disburse the assets to the beneficiaries as the deceased intended.

Disagreements almost inevitably are bound to happen, they are usually worked out. Some disputes, however, are serious and cannot be resolved by the parties. Then the only choice is litigation.

While no means exhaustive, here are a few of the estate litigation issues we have been involved in:

  • Contested Guardianship
  • Assets that were sold when they should not have been
  • Improper valuations
  • Misreading/interpreting a will clause
  • Failure to insure a property.
  • Paying out assets to the wrong party(s)
  • Assets unaccounted for
  • Self-dealing by the executor
  • Distribution of assets
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Trusts Disputes

Trustees perform many duties and are accountable to several parties – including the IRS. Trustees are held to the highest standards of loyalty and honesty to the trust and beneficiaries.

Some trustees fail to live up to those standards. Some beneficiaries think they are entitled to more than they are receiving. Or are unhappy with a trustee’s investment or business decisions. Or are chafing at not having control.

Trust disputes regularly arise when the parties are intractably entrenched and/or the accusations are serious. Litigation may be inevitable.

A few of the trust disputes we have handled:

  • Breach of fiduciary duty
  • Conflicts over taxable and non-taxable gifts
  • Accountings
  • Issues regarding closely held business interests
  • Charitable pledge disputes and modifications of charitable trusts
  • Contested claims
  • Proceedings to recover assets
  • Modifying and terminating trusts
  • Taxes
  • Appeals
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Contact Us

The attorneys at Hopkins Centrich Law have the negotiating and mediation skills to craft a settlement in even the most combative situations. If needed, though, we are ready, willing, and able to litigate.

We will work with you through the entire process. We will make even the most complex issues easy to understand – an important skill in a field that is often esoteric.

Contact us, the earlier the better.

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