Estate and Trust Litigation
The term, “fiduciary,” describes an individual (or entity) to whom the duties and obligations of managing the property or person of another have been granted by a legal instrument or by the courts. For example, an executor named under a Last Will and Testament, a trustee of a trust, an agent under and financial power of attorney or a conservator for an incapacitated adult who is appointed by a court are considered “fiduciaries” under the law. A person in such a position is said to have a “fiduciary duty” to manage the assets under their control for the benefit of the incapacitated person or the beneficiaries of the trust or estate of which they are in charge. The fiduciary standard of conduct is the highest in the law. A fiduciary who misappropriates trust funds or fails to invest according to minimum legal standards is subject to removal and the imposition of penalties, including forfeiture of fiduciary commissions and reimbursement of the funds squandered.
Often times, the fiduciary actually commences litigation. A trustee may seek judicial guidance as to the distribution of a trust if the terms are not clear or a difficult beneficiary is impeding the administration of a trust. An executor may require aid and direction from the courts to determine the intention of the testator as to provisions in his Last Will and Testament. General litigation matters may involve the estate administrator in his capacity as the personal representative of the deceased, including will contests, judicial modifications, termination of trusts, or the enforcement of a beneficiary’s rights. These actions involve special knowledge of the legal status of the fiduciary and the beneficiaries, in addition to the procedural rules and court proceedings involving estates, which differ drastically from other forms of litigation in Virginia.
Our attorneys are experienced in the administrative and court proceedings related to estate and trust litigation. We have served clients who have challenged wills and trusts, and we have represented the executors and trustees defending the validity of these documents. We have also represented spouses, in establishing their claims to the elective share (the augmented estate), preventing complete disinheritance of the surviving spouse. Beneficiaries, including charitable organizations, have retained our attorneys to assist in protecting their interests under contested estate matters as well.
Midgett Preti Olansen is a law firm with a practice focused on estate, fiduciary and tax matters. When matters involve litigation, the experience of our attorneys is invaluable to the success of our clients.