Being a trustee of a trust can be a difficult and stressful job. Ingrained family dynamics, petty jealousies, egos, and even resentment among siblings at the fact they were not designated in the trust to be trustee can make beneficiaries difficult to work with and exceedingly hard to please.
You may find yourself unjustly accused of wrongdoing in any number of forms including but not limited to failing to follow the terms of the trust, failing to disclose material facts, failing to communicate and keep beneficiaries informed, and favoring personal interests over those of other beneficiaries, failing to account, mismanaging the trust, and even misappropriating assets of the trust. Beneficiaries can sue the trustee for, among other things, removal of the trustee, abuse in accounting, personal damages, and attorney’s fees. If you are a trustee and find yourself in this situation, you need to consult with and retain experienced legal counsel immediately.
Here at The Sterling Law Group, the defense of trustees in trust litigation is among the services we provide, and we have been doing it successfully for many years. Because the extent of a trustee’s duties and powers is determined by the trust instrument, we start with a thorough review of the trust and an analysis of, among other things, the following issues:
Following an analysis of these and other issues and after a review of your situation, we devise a litigation strategy in consultation with you with the goal in mind of resolving the lawsuit on the most favorable terms attainable, and cost-effective manner possible. Sometimes that means informal negotiation and settlement following a willingness to compromise on all sides. Informal negotiation is usually accomplished in private or court-ordered mediation.
Sometimes a more aggressive approach is needed. At the outset of litigation, beneficiaries and counsel representing beneficiaries tend to believe they are “holding all the cards.” Generally, however, that is not the case. Aggressive discovery in the form of requesting production of documents, seeking a court order to compel compliance where the beneficiary resists producing requested documents, deposing key witnesses, retaining and working with qualified expert witnesses (such as CPAs), and filing pre-trial motions where appropriate (such as demurrers, motions for judgment on the pleadings and motions for summary judgment) can all serve to soften stubborn parties and their counsel making them more reasonable to deal with. What also helps in that regard is the fact that we at The Sterling Law Group approach every litigation matter as if it is going to trial and as if we are preparing it for trial.
If you are a trustee dealing with difficult and accusatory beneficiaries, do not attempt to handle the situation on your own. Without the help of competent counsel, a trustee is at risk of being removed as trustee and incurring exorbitant expenses. Call us at The Sterling Law Group and schedule a consultation.