When disputes arise about a loved one’s estate after they pass away, it can tear families apart and lead to costly and disruptive litigation. Harrison & Johnston’s estate and probate litigation attorneys help individuals navigate these conflicts, vigorously protecting their interests while working to preserve or repair strained relationships.
After a person passes away, disputes can arise between family members, heirs, beneficiaries, creditors, and others who may claim an interest in that person’s assets. Some individuals may challenge the validity of a will or other estate documents or take issue with the others’ interpretation of those documents. Other times, there may be concerns about how an executor, trustee, guardian, or other fiduciary is discharging their duties or managing and distributing assets. Sadly, these disputes often result in litigation.
As with all contested matters which make their way to the courthouse, estate and probate litigation requires attorneys who have the skill, commitment, and legal acumen to effectively advance their client’s positions and protect their rights. The Shenandoah Valley estate and probate litigation attorneys at Harrison & Johnston all share those essential qualities. But we also recognize the sensitivity of these disputes and the lasting damage they can do to relationships among family members. That is why we always endeavor to find resolutions that minimize such conflicts so that families can heal.
While trusts are fundamental and effective estate planning vehicles, even the most well-crafted trusts are not immune to challenges and disputes. Trusts involve multiple parties, many with diverging interests and goals. The individual who made the trust (and those who helped them prepare trust documents), beneficiaries, and the trustee charged with administering the trust and following its terms – all may not see eye-to-eye about a broad spectrum of issues.
Our trust litigation lawyers regularly prepare meticulous trust documents as part of our estate planning services. We are actively engaged in the administration of trusts and the fiduciary responsibilities of managing and distributing trust assets. The insights we gain from this experience complement our litigators' advocacy skills and give our clients a distinct advantage if conflict arises.
After someone who had the foresight to prepare a will passes away, there may be people who are displeased with its contents or feel like they were shortchanged. There may be others who believe the will is invalid or executed under circumstances that should cause a court to set it aside. Such will contests can and do lead to litigation. Our trial attorneys represent those whose interests need protection, whether in defending a will’s enforceability or attacking its validity.
Many aspects of estate planning involve placing trust in others. Trustees, executors, guardians, and those who have been given power of attorney over a person’s affairs have legal and ethical obligations to effectuate that person’s wishes and directives. They have fiduciary duties that require them to set aside their own personal interests and perform their responsibilities guided by the underlying documents and the best interests of the testator and beneficiaries.
However, a fiduciary can abuse that power and use it as a means for fraud or self-dealing. Sometimes, the person breaching their duties may be a trusted family member or friend who takes advantage of their position of trust in pursuit of their own financial interests.
In such situations, our attorneys can act quickly and decisively to begin proceedings to remove the fiduciary, hold them accountable for any damages, and stop any further losses.