Once the trust is formed, the appointed trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the trust and its recipients. This is one of the main reasons why trusts are created: to ensure the safekeeping of assets or property for the benefit of another person or party.
Setting up a trust is just one common method that people use to distribute both personal and real property. In a trust, the property is first transferred to a designated trustee, who then holds the property or assets “in trust” for a specified amount of time before transferring it to the intended beneficiary.
Thus, a trust property dispute may arise where there are any disagreements regarding the distribution of property as listed in that trust. In general, trust disputes involving property typically occur because of the fact that there are usually certain conditions attached to how the property might be distributed. Therefore, the more complex the conditions attached to the trust are, the more likely it is that a legal dispute will arise over how the property is being distributed.
Trust disputes may also arise because of negligence or abuse of a settlor by a trustee and/or a person who may see financial gain by manipulating the person or persons they may stand to inherit property from. Should a family member or trustee step over the line and abuse their power, a settlor may choose to ammend their trust.
Additionally, they may choose to file a Petition for Conservatorship. The Petition provideds that the settlor(s) may be or have been taken advantage of financially and/or that they were unable to resist financial pressure from others. Furthermore, they may allege that assets were being used to pay for expenses not pertaining to or permitted and that the trustee or beneficiary has abused his or her powers. In this case, one may petition to remove one’s status as Durable Power of Attorney.
Some common examples of property trust disputes may include but are not limited to:
- Disputes as to which beneficiary is supposed to receive said property;
- Property distributions that are illegal or specifically against the law;
- Disputes over the length and timing of a property transfer;
- Conflicts about either the amount or value of the property involved;
- Disputes regarding the trustee’s management of property or assets
- Suspicion of deceitful practices or attempts to defraud the settlor(s)
- Attempts to influence settlor(s) for one’s own financial gain
- Visible signs of settlor(s) being coerced, oppressed, or undly influcenced
Trust disputes over property are typically resolved by having a court review the actual trust document. In most cases, a judge will refer to the initial trust document as much as possible. This is so that the original intentions of the creator of the trust are honored, and to ensure that the property dispute is properly settled between the parties involved. This is one of the reasons why it is extremely important to make sure that the terms of a trust are drafted in a very clear and unambiguous manner in the first place.
At Webb Law Group, we address these issues in two ways: 1) Preventative action; 2) Offensive action. Most trust property disputes can be avoided if the involved parties are able to clearly and intelligibly communicate their desires and their understanding of the agreement. This can also be considered a transactional approach. When preventative measures are no longer an available option, litigation – or at least the threat of litigation – is the next step.
From day one of our practice, we at Webb Law Group have been analyzing trust property disputes, as well as undue influence, elder abuse, and lack of capacity claims. We provide sound advice for resolving these conflicts, and skillfully litigating unresolvable controversies.