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Trusts and Estate Litigation

Challenges to Trust and Estate Instruments

Stoltmann Law Offices Commercial Litigation Group handles select will and trust disputes on a contingent fee basis in order to align the attorney’s interest with the beneficiary who is not receiving what she is entitled to from the trustee or executor.

Will Contest

Will contests, which turn on whether a will is valid are some of the most common trust and estate lawsuits. An interested person or heir can file a petition to contest the validity of a will within six months after a will is admitted to probate in Illinois. A will contest case can be tried by a jury. Under the doctrine of election anyone who accepts a beneficial interest from will or trust in Illinois is considered to be ratifying and confirming the total will or trust that provided the benefits.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty by Trustee

The second most common trust and estate dispute litigated by the Stoltmann Law Offices Commercial Litigation Group is a trustee’s breach of fiduciary duty. A trustee owes many duties to the beneficiaries, including:

  • Loyalty
  • Reasonable Care
  • Duty of skill and care
  • Duty of impartiality
  • Duty of loyalty and faithfulness
  • Duty to avoid conflict of interest
  • Duty to administer trust by its terms
  • Duty to give notices
  • Duty to provide information and to communicate
  • Duty to account
  • Duty not to delegate
  • Duty to segregate trust property
  • Duty to invest
  • Duty to enforce and defend claims
  • Duty of confidentiality
  • Duty to distribute

The Trustee must abide by “the prudent investor rule” meaning the trustee must follow investment strategies that use reasonable business judgment and take into account the reasonable production of income as well as the safety of capital in a trust as a whole. If a trustee is having special knowledge such as an accountant or lawyer he must use it when managing the trust.

The court has power to appoint a trustee ad litem and enjoin the use of current trust assets by a trustee that breached his duty. In order to secure a preliminary injunction, a beneficiary will need to show that he or she has defined right that needs protection, that the action will likely succeed on its merits, that irreparable harm will occur without the injunction that cannot be cured with money damages.

The trust document itself may be unclear. Trusts are interpreted with the goal of effectuating the intentions of the creator of the trust, or settlor. So long as this intent is in line with the law or public policy, the court will try to make sure those intentions are followed by using the ordinary meaning of the words in the trust. The court will look at outside evidence only when there is some sort of ambiguity in the language of the trust, and the intent therefore cannot be easily ascertained.

If you find yourself in danger of being sued for breach of fiduciary duty, have already been sued for breach of fiduciary, have not received the inheritance you deserve, or want to explore how you may recover for someone else’s breach of fiduciary duty, please contact the Stoltmann Law Offices Commercial Litigation Group at 312-332-4200.

Client Reviews
Working with Joe was an absolute pleasure considering the unfortunate situation I was dealing with! He’s very knowledgeable and easy to communicate with. He kept me informed in all aspects of my case in a timely manner. Whenever I contacted him with a question he responded quickly. His expertise came through for me! I would highly recommend him! Joanne
I hired Joe and his firm Stoltmann Law office to represent me in a case where my investment guy had lost a substantial amount of money in my account. He invested in some very speculative energy stocks which should not have been in my portfolio due to my request for a very conservative investment portfolio. I was very impressed and satisfied with the representation and negotiations on my behalf by Joe and Stoltmann Law offices and I would definitely recommend them to anyone who would be in need of a very fine firm. Anonymous
Never having a need to file suit against anyone, let alone a major multi-national brokerage firm, I was at a loss to find a legal firm to assist me. After much searching, I found Stoltmann Law Offices, PC. They were very diligent and professional in the handling of my case and I am glad that I retained their services. I would definitely refer them to anyone seeking similar help. Donald F.