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trust litigation lawyer meetingTrust litigation typically involves conflicts between the beneficiary of a trust (the person who benefits from the trust fund) and the trustee, who has been assigned to manage the trust. Beneficiaries are entitled to a multitude of rights and legal remedies, which they can exercise if the trustee fails to distribute and administer assets in accordance with the terms of the trust.

At Staubus and Randall, we regularly help beneficiaries understand their rights and have represented both beneficiaries and trustees in court. If you are the beneficiary of a trust and you believe that the trust is being mismanaged or that the trustee has breached their fiduciary duty in some way, contact our office to discuss your situation with a skilled Dallas trust litigation lawyer.

For more information on trust litigation, please refer to this white paper entitled “Trust Code Toolbox for Locking Down the Runaway Trustee.”

What Are My Rights as a Trust Beneficiary?

Although trusts are designed to operate without any court supervision, trust beneficiaries have the right to file suit to enforce the express terms of the trust, as well as to enforce the legal duties owed to them by the trustee, referred to as “fiduciary duties.”

A fiduciary duty is a legal and ethical commitment made by a trustee to act in the best interests of the beneficiary and manage the trust in a responsible manner. Among these fiduciary duties owed to each beneficiary (including “remainder beneficiaries” who have only a future right to income or principal distributions) are the following:

  • Duty of full disclosure
  • Duty to account
  • Duty to keep and maintain accurate trust records
  • Duty of loyalty (including the duty not to self-deal)
  • Duty to make the trust property productive
  • Duty to reasonably exercise their discretion

Beneficiaries to whom any fiduciary duties have been breached have legal remedies that they can have enforced by a District Court, or in a larger county, by a “Statutory Probate Court” (such as Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Harris, Bexar, or Travis Counties).

Some of these court-ordered remedies include the following:

  • Compelling the trustee to take an action
  • Enjoining the trustee from taking an action
  • Ordering the trustee to pay back money or to restore property
  • Ordering the trustee to provide a detailed accounting
  • Suspending or removing the trustee
  • Denying the trustee’s compensation
  • Awarding a judgment against the trustee for actual and punitive damages
  • Having the Court supervise the trust and oversee all transactions

trust litigation meeting with lawyerIn addition, beneficiaries can invoke the power of a court to seek an increase in the amount of their distributions from the trust, modify the terms of the trust, or terminate the trust and have the trust assets distributed outright. When a trust owns an interest in a limited partnership or a limited liability company, the trust litigation may involve claims against the general partner or managers of those entities, in addition to the trustee.

The fiduciary duties imposed on trustees have been described as one of the highest duties imposed by law. Trust beneficiaries have significant remedies, and the court has extremely wide latitude in enforcing those duties and in awarding attorneys’ fees to such beneficiaries that they incurred in enforcing those rights.

Reasons Why a Beneficiary Might Sue a Trustee

Some valid reasons why a beneficiary might take legal action against a trustee include:

  • The trustee misappropriated funds in the trust or sold property for personal financial gain
  • The trustee acted in a negligent manner (i.e., they made a risky investment using funds from the trust, which resulted in a poor return and the trust being devalued)
  • The trustee used funds or property in the trust for someone else’s benefit rather than for the benefit of the designated beneficiary or beneficiaries
  • The trustee showed favoritism toward one beneficiary over another
  • The trustee refused to distribute assets in the trust without a legitimate excuse

If a trustee has deliberately abused their position for financial gain or otherwise acted in a questionable manner, then it is critical for the beneficiary to take immediate steps to enforce their rights and recover any assets or property that was mismanaged or sold.

The prospect of suing a trustee for a breach of fiduciary duty can seem daunting, especially if they are a close relative or loved one. It is not uncommon for beneficiaries to wonder whether taking legal action is worth their while, given the potential fallout.

However, depending on the circumstances of your case, filing a lawsuit against the trustee might be the best legal remedy available if a trust is being mishandled. If you are unsure whether legal action is appropriate in your situation, we highly recommend you speak with a seasoned trust litigation attorney.

Why Hire a Trust Litigation Attorney?

Trust litigation is a complex area of the law, and to have the best possible chance of securing a positive outcome, you will most likely need the help of a knowledgeable trust litigation attorney, preferably one with extensive trial experience.

Your attorney will help you navigate the legal process, defend your rights, and provide you with insightful legal advice. Because the trustee will likely have their own attorney representing them during legal proceedings, it is crucial to hire your own independent counsel, someone who has your best interests in mind.

Trust lawsuits tend to be contentious and emotional because they can pit family members against one another. Having an attorney in your corner can help reduce the potential for conflict and make it easier to resolve disputes efficiently.

Contact a Dallas Trust Litigation Attorney Today

Based upon years of litigation experience relating to trusts, Staubus and Randall provides advice and representation to individual trustees, corporate trustees, public and private charities and foundations, and representation to beneficiaries on any trust-related disputes, including fiduciary duties and risk management for trustees, suits over the validity of trusts, suits to modify or terminate trusts, and suits over the removal of trustees and for damages relating to breaches of fiduciary duties.

If you are considering setting up a trust, consider the pros and cons, including how you could avoid paying an inheritance tax. Call us at 214-691-3411 to learn more about our services or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

Staubus & Randall Team

What Our Clients Say

"I recently had the occasion to hire Mr. Staubus for a hotly contested Guardianship matter. Mr. Staubus brought a rare combination of effectiveness, reasonableness and understanding of the human element involved. Mr. Staubus handled all things in a calm, highly competent, effective and reasonable way. It could not have been as easy as he made it seem. He's a credit to the Bar."

Jody

"Before retaining the guidance of the Staubus & Randall firm, I was at my wit's end trying to close an uncle's estate as a co-executor. In addition to dealing with difficult heirs, I had other pressing business issues coming up immediately on estate land in the middle of the Eagleford Shale including dealings with pipeline, seismic, oil & gas, and construction companies. The local bank also refused to give me access to information relating to the estate. This quickly became the most stressful and desperate time in my life...and then I found Joseph Legere who truly became my guardian angel. He was able to get all issues resolved efficiently and the estate fully closed. His professionalism, immense legal knowledge on a wide variety of topics, and amazing communication skills took the burdens off of me and quickly got closure. I am forever indebted to this firm for giving me my life back."

Martha

"Without exception, the legal service, professional attitude, prompt communication of your firm and your legal knowledge is second to none. I only wish I had an attorney here in Boston that could hold a candle to your experience and expertise. Working with you has been a pleasure, but even more, has made me believe that there are knowledgeable attorneys that do care about doing a good job. Thank you Keith! You may not truly understand how much of an impact you are having on peoples lives, but for me, you have helped change my life. As I begin making my dreams come true I can't help but remember none of this would be possible without you."

Joann

"Keith Staubus and Julie Blankenship and their team represented me in a jury trial in the probate court where the ownership of the business which I had worked hard to build was at stake. They successfully fought to preserve my business and my professional reputation, working masterfully to gain the support of the jury. I would not hesitate to hire them again in any bet-the-company litigation.”

Karen

"I have required legal representation twice in my life in two separate will contests. Both times I sought assistance from Keith Staubus and Staubus/Randall. Their service, approach, and determination to obtain results exceeded the other attorneys in each case. Mr. Staubus has always come across as genuine while being direct. He gets the process done in a timely manner with results. I will certainly use him again when and if any new challenges arise.”

David

"After my husband's death, I was devastated by having to defend against a vicious dispute over my husband's estate. Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus made me feel very comfortable in this distressing situation. They were very tough and did an excellent job for me in obtaining a summary judgment in my favor without a full jury trial. I was glad to have them and Diane Walker in my corner to help me achieve an excellent result - I won! If I ever had to go back to probate court, I would hire them again.” - (will and trust construction case)

Flo

"If you need intervention for someone you love but don't know where to turn or who to turn to, Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus helped me through the most difficult and stressful time in my life with a much loved family member. I now believe that good will triumph over evil. They fought for what was right, and good prevailed." (contested guardianship and will contest)

Janet

"As a professional money manager, I have used Ryan Randall's estate planning services both personally and for my clients. Ryan has exhibited three critical attributes in his work with me: (1) high intellectual capacity, (2) exceptional thoroughness, and (3) a total commitment to integrity. In today's litigious world, it can be quite costly not to "get things done right.” An added bonus to us was that we found one of the nicest people we could imagine.”

John

"I was represented by Keith Staubus as an income beneficiary in a lawsuit with the trustee of a family trust. Utilizing the expertise of a forensic accountant and his own trust expertise, Keith was able to negotiate a judicial modification of the trust providing for the buyout of my income interest for a substantial lump sum payment out of the trust, resulting in a win-win situation for all of the parties. I highly recommend Staubus/Randall for any trust disputes and trust modification actions."

Kathy

"I have been a wealth management specialist and retirement plan consultant with the Dallas/Fort Worth financial community for over 20 years. I have engaged Ryan Randall to work with a number of my best clients over the years, including business owners, professionals and families. My clients always appreciate Ryan’s straightforward approach to estate planning, asset protection planning and business succession planning. He makes even the most sophisticated estate planning strategies understandable."

Larry

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