Among the most hotly contested issues at law are disputes involving the distribution of the estate of a deceased family member through trusts and wills. The passing of wealth from one generation to the next often results in an unexpected and unpleasant surprise when the beneficiary of a decedent learns for the first time after the death of their loved one that their legacy is not what they expected.
These are highly personal matters where raw emotions and hurt feelings can predominate over financial issues. While the beneficiary may have simply misunderstood or misapprehended the intentions of the testator, at times there is unfortunately far more to the story. Perhaps the testator was overreached or unduly influenced to change a will or trust at a time when they had diminished mental capacity due to mental or emotional illness, dementia, Alzheimer’s, chemical or alcohol dependency or other medical issues. From time to time, undue influence is exerted on a vulnerable person to execute a will, trust or a deed transferring property that does not reflect their true desires.
In addition, these types of offenses often occur also through the use and abuse of a power of attorney, where a family member has obtained such an instrument through coercion, duress or deceit and used it in breach of their fiduciary duties to divest someone of their assets. Oftentimes there are claims that can be asserted against the Trustee, Attorney in Fact or Personal Representative for these actions. Further, professionals such as attorneys and accountants may also have legal exposure because of what has occurred.
Bland Richter, LLP has extensive experience in litigating matters involving the abuse of authority in the use of a power of attorney and in seeking to attack and set aside a will or trust that was executed by a person operating under duress or with diminished capacity. We also have extensive experience in litigating claims involving errors of attorneys, which result from the incorrect drafting or preparation of a testamentary instrument which defeats or diminishes the client’s true intent.