Our judicial system was created for the orderly resolution of disputes, with the trial as the part of our judicial system designed to find out the truth in every case and controversy.
Unfortunately, there are situations that must involve the judicial system. Our law firm’s litigation practice group is exclusively limited to the areas of Probate and Trust Litigation. Listed below are number of the representative areas in which we represent clients in the Probate and Trust Litigation Practice Group.
There are times when it becomes necessary for the heir of an estate to contest the validity of a Last Will and Testament (commonly referred to as a Will). This usually occurs when an heir, who believes that he or she was an heir of the estate, discovers at death that he or she is not or is no longer the heir of an estate. What follows below are a number of ways that the Will may be contested in Tennessee.
Undue Influence. These cases involve an end-of-life caretaker, neighbor or family member who has unfairly influenced the terms of the Will. This is most often seen when a Will is changed, amended, or altered in close proximity to death.
Lack of Mental Capacity. Under Tennessee law, the testator (the one who signed the Will) must have the mental capacity to create a will. If the person did not have metal capacity to do so, the will can be challenged and declared invalid. One example may be where the testator did not understand who their family members were or did not understand the assets that he or she did hold when writing or amending their Will.
Lack of Formalities. Tennessee law requires that Wills be signed by the testator, be in the presence of two independent witnesses, that a self-proving affidavit be signed by the witnesses and testator, and that the signatures be notarized. If this was not done, the Will may be considered invalid.
Fraud or Mistake. Will contests can often occur because of allegations of fraud, misunderstanding, or mistake.
Contested Guardianships and Conservatorships
A conservatorship is a court proceeding whereby an individual, usually a family member or close friend, asks the Court to appoint someone to manage the healthcare and/or finances of another who no longer has the mental capacity or physical ability to do so on his or her own, whether because he or she lacks the ability to manage healthcare and finances, or is unable to resist fraud or undue influence.
Under some circumstances, Conservatorships and Guardianship proceedings can become contested between family members and extended family members.
Our law firm focuses on representing clients in both non-contested and contested Guardianship and Conservatorship proceedings before all Tennessee Courts.
When you’re faced with the troubling aspect of protecting your rights or facing family in court, you need a tough, smart, and talented litigator on your side.
Trusts are formed when a person transfers personal or business assets from their own name into a trust. Creating a trust helps to avoid probate at death, provide the ease of estate settlement at death, minimize the exposure to estate taxes, protect heirs from creditors/divorce/lawsuits/bankruptcy/etc., and provide care for a special needs adult child, just to name a few. But sometimes, problems arise in the funding and administration of trusts, either before or after the death of the Settlor (the person who created the trust). It’s at this point that you need smart and sound advice from a probate and trust litigation attorney.
If you are involved in trust litigation as a beneficiary, trustee or personal representative of a decedent’s estate in Tennessee, the attorneys at Thomas Walters can advise you about your rights, responsibilities, and legal options in dealing with the litigation.
Here are a list of some issues that might require probate court resulting from the administration or funding of a trust:
- Issues of competence, undue influence or duress at the time the settlor created the trust or during the administration of the living trust
- Charges of waste or improper asset administration against the trustee
- Disputes between a trust’s income beneficiaries and the asset beneficiaries
- Problems resulting from the failure to properly or completely transfer title to assets into the trust during the life of the settlor
- Allegations of fraud, misappropriation or self-dealing against the trustee
Our Trust litigation team can help you to resolve any problem relating to trusts – whether it is about the formation of the trust or management of the trust assets. Some common solutions to unforeseen problems include:
- Reformation of a trust to fit new unanticipated realities
- Removal or replacement of a trustee
- Detailed accounting of the trustee’s management of trust assets to track and quantify improper transactions
- Contest or defend ownership of assets in a dispute between trustees and a decedent’s estate representatives
At Thomas Walters, we represent all sides of trust litigation – settlors, trustees, and beneficiaries – throughout all of Tennessee. We can also serve the needs of clients who reside outside the State of Tennessee, but hold an interest in a Tennessee trust in any capacity.
If you are in need of counsel and advice regarding a Probate, Guardianship/Conservatorship, or Trust litigation matter, please contact our office today for an initial consultation at (615) 472-2482 or you can e-mail us at [email protected].
As always, we are here to help!