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Probate and Estates

Probate and Estates:

Will/Trust Contests
We are experienced litigators in the areas of disputes, controversies and contests involving wills, trusts, estates, guardianships and related matters. Those cases may have to do with breach of fiduciary duties, over-reaching, financial manipulation, fraud, duress, tortious interference with expectancies and matters related thereto.

Estate Settlement
We have been handling estate settlement matters for decades, including independent administration, supervised administration, probate and non-probate, including representation of Executors, Administrators, beneficiaries, and others, the preparation and filing of estate settlement documents, including admitting wills to probate, obtaining Letters of Office, having First and Final Account and Reports approved by the Court and matters related thereto.

Guardianships
We have experience and expertise in the areas of routine and non-routine guardianships, including objections to guardianships of the person, objection to guardianships of the estate, removal of guardians for various reasons, requesting the Court to appoint guardians of the person and estates, representing guardians in regard to annual accounts and matters related thereto.

Power of Attorneys
We have been preparing Power of Attorneys for years, including durable power of attorneys, living wills, healthcare power of attorneys, property power of attorneys, limited power of attorneys and we have experience in regard to removal or revocation of power of attorneys, and appointments of power of attorneys independently or through the Court.

Elder Law
We have been dealing with elder law issues for years, including relating to estates, trusts, guardianships, power of attorneys and other matters. Our experience has necessarily involved issues relating to old-age, senility, alzheimer and physical and mental disabilities.

Contested Wills and Trusts Cases in Southern Illinois
Heirs, beneficiaries or other interested persons may have the right to challenge proceedings, including contesting wills and trusts. A thorough examination should be made of all facts and circumstances, including documents that may be involved. Challenges or litigation in regard to Wills and Trusts can be based on a variety of factors, including undue influence, lack mental capacity, duress and interference with an inheritance expectancy, including relating to the competency of the person when the Will or Trust was made. In this type of probate litigation, we usually recommend discovery depositions, including in regard to persons who may have witnessed Wills or Trusts being executed. Sometimes persons that are closest to the maker of the Will or Trust have fiduciary duties, and sometimes those fiduciary duties are violated when those persons prefer themselves in the making of the Will or Trust.

Joint Tenancy Accounts, Payable on Death Accounts, Beneficiary Accounts, Life Insurance Policies, Bank Accounts, Retirement Accounts and Employment Accounts
Sometimes contested probate proceedings, which may relate to Wills or Trusts, can also involve actions that were engaged in prior to death, including relating to joint tenancy accounts, payable on death accounts, beneficiary accounts, life insurance policies, bank accounts, retirement accounts and employment accounts. Sometimes there are disputes or controversies regarding heirs and/or beneficiaries, or relatives, or caregivers, friends and acquaintances. A fiduciary relationship is one of trust. That means the person in a fiduciary capacity, is held to a higher standard because of the trust relationship with the person to whom the fiduciary duty is owed. Depending on the circumstances, if a fiduciary relationship exists, then the burden of proof can shift to the fiduciary to show by clear and convincing evidence that there was no fraud involved in financial transactions that benefitted the fiduciary.

Matters Involving Relatives In Contested Will and Contested Trust Cases
In many situations, the fiduciary may be a relative or other person having a close relationship with the person to whom the fiduciary duty is owed. By the date of death, sometimes substantial assets or benefits have already been received by the fiduciary or his or her family. In other instances, the fiduciary can end up being a joint tenant or a payable death beneficiary in regard to an account or other assets that originally belonged to the person to whom the fiduciary duty was owed. This becomes problematical when that fiduciary may also be named the trustee or successor trustee, or executor of the Will. In that situation, the fiduciary, who has been acting as Trustee and/or Executor, usually has a duty to disclose the existence of those assets, as well provide explanation in regard to how those assets came into existence or were retitled. Sometimes it is necessary for the fiduciary who is then acting as Trustee or Executor to step aside, or possibly have a Special Administrator appointed, in regard to issues or conflicts that may exist with respect to the fiduciary acting as Trustee or Executor and the fiduciary being a beneficiary under the Will and/or Trust, or the fiduciary being a joint tenant or payable on death beneficiary as of the date of death of the person to whom the fiduciary duty was owed.