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Estate, Trust and Fiduciary Litigation

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We have considerable experience assisting clients in resolving controversies brought by or against fiduciaries in their handling of the administration of probate estates and revocable and irrevocable trusts.

Practice Overview

The large transfer of wealth presently occurring has resulted in a significant uptick in estate and trust disputes. Baker Donelson's Fiduciary Litigation Team has considerable experience assisting personal representatives, individual and corporate trustees, charitable organizations and non-profits, individual beneficiaries and families in resolving controversies brought by or against fiduciaries in their handling of the administration of probate estates and revocable and irrevocable trusts. Some examples of these disputes, which are broadly referred to as fiduciary litigation, involve challenges to the validity of wills and trust instruments, disagreements over the proper interpretation of wills and trust instruments, litigation seeking the reformation and termination of trusts, challenges to actions taken by fiduciaries, challenges to changes of ownership and/or beneficiaries of non-probate accounts, removal proceedings and contested guardianship and conservatorship proceedings.

In a typical engagement, Baker Donelson will assemble a team consisting of a trial attorney experienced in litigating estate and trust controversies, and pair them with a planning attorney from our Trusts and Estates – Planning and Administration Group, many of whom belong to the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). This approach enables Baker Donelson to provide our clients the combined benefit of skilled and experienced fiduciary litigators with the knowledge and experience of attorneys who regularly counsel clients on high-level estate planning strategies, craft planning documents and oversee the administration of estates and trusts.

As estate and trust disputes often times involve personal and emotionally charged issues, we work closely with our clients to find the most effective and efficient way to solve the problem. This includes the use of mediation and alternative dispute resolution in cases that can be resolved in advance of trial.

  • Representation of the personal representative of an estate in excess of $10 million in defending a will caveat against claims of fraud, undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity.

  • Representation of beneficiaries of an estate in excess of $20 million in a controversy relating to the calculations of commissions claimed by the corporate personal representative.

  • Representation of a beneficiary of a will and a trust in proceedings to remove the personal representative for failing to carry out responsibilities in the administration of the estate and to remove a trustee for failure to satisfy fiduciary obligations.

  • Representation of a personal representative of a multi-million dollar estate in a dispute with a beneficiary trust over the proper handling of assets in excess of $40 million, which were ear-marked for a charitable purpose.

  • Representation of a corporate trustee against claims of alleged breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with the preservation of the assets of the trust.

  • Representation of a financial institution serving as corporate trustee in the defense of a lawsuit asserting fraud and attempting to specifically enforce a real estate contract.
  • Representation of beneficiaries of a multimillion dollar estate in a hotly-contested lost will dispute involving dozens of witnesses, experts and forensic computer analysts.

  • Representation of a fiduciary in recovering estate assets that were misappropriated as a result of undue influence.
  • Representation of the beneficiary of a $30 million residual trust in litigation concerning a conditional bequest that violated public policy prohibitions against discrimination.

  • Representation of corporate and individual trustees with proceedings to partition assets held in common by two family trusts, each having separate trustees and beneficiaries.

  • Representation of beneficiaries in federal litigation involving claims of breach of fiduciary duty by corporate trustees in the sale to an individual trustee of real property held by the trust.

  • Representation of a successor fiduciary in obtaining a multimillion fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and undue influence judgment against prior fiduciary and engaging in substantial collection activities in order to collect on the judgment for the benefit of individual and charitable beneficiaries.

  • Representation of the estate of a worldwide music legend in breach of contract and copyright infringement litigation against a major record label for misapplication of international royalties.

  • Representation of a trust beneficiary in the adoption of adult stepchildren in order to qualify the stepchildren as beneficiaries of a family trust.

  • Representation of estate beneficiaries in proceedings to remove a personal representative based on her direct involvement in the decedent's death and in subsequent litigation of claims by the estate against the former personal representative.

  • Representation of the beneficiary in multimillion dollar litigation involving the misappropriation of assets from an irrevocable trust in violation of the trust instrument.

  • Representation of a not-for-profit skilled nursing facility in cy pres litigation necessary to allow continued operation of the facility consistent with the testator's charitable intentions.
  • Representation of a beneficiary in a declaratory judgment seeking to validate a contract to make a will and to invalidate a prenuptial agreement.
  • Representation of a family in defending the defending challenges to the decedent's will and in related partition proceeding involving valuable real property.
  • Representation of a health and rehabilitation center in obtaining conservatorships for residents in need of assistance but who have no known loved ones to help care for the resident.
  • Representation of a surviving spouse in obtaining declaratory judgment that the missing spouse be declared deceased following the spouse's disappearance.

  • Representation of a daughter in an emergency conservatorship proceeding for mother undergoing involuntary commitment proceedings due to mental illness.

In my opinion, they have the most expertise in trust and estates in the Southeast.

They can answer any kind of estate planning or tax question out there. They have a deep team in Jackson.

They know what they are doing. They come up with strategies to accomplish goals creatively and they communicate them very well to clients that do not have expertise in taxation, probate or estate matters.

Their knowledge of estate planning and tax issues are particular strengths, as is their willingness to champion a particular strategy and go the extra mile to convince the client of its merits.

The team is excellent there. They are very knowledgeable in all areas of wealth management and multi-generational planning.

The team as a whole is very well rounded and effective. The attorneys that I have worked with at Baker Donelson are first-class.

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