Trust and Estate litigation proceedings encompass a variety of matters concerning the estate of a decedent. Attorneys at Redstone Law Firm combine in-depth understanding of South Dakota's trust and probate code with years of experience in litigation, much of which is unique to trust and estate disputes. The firm represents both beneficiaries and fiduciaries, including corporate trustees, executors, trustees, and personal representatives in a wide variety of disputes, including:
Challenges to the Validity of a Trust – The validity of a trust may be challenged on several grounds, including lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, or mistake.
Beneficiary Disputes – A dispute can arise if the beneficiaries of a trust question the way the trustee is administering or distributing the assets of the trust, or if the beneficiaries disagree on how the trust should be interpreted.
Will Contests and Will Defense – These disputes typically involve a claim that the will does not reflect the testator's intent or is invalid due to undue influence, mistake, fraud, improper execution, or lack of testamentary capacity. A disinherited child may challenge the will of a parent on any of these grounds.
Intestacy and Heirship Disputes – When a person dies without a will or trust, his or her estate is distributed according to South Dakota intestacy laws. Any interested person can file a petition for the Court to determine who is entitled to inherit and to resolve disputes among potential heirs.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty - A trustee has certain legal duties to beneficiaries of a trust. When a trustee breaches one of these duties, it may give rise to a claim for breach of fiduciary duty.
Removal of Trustees – The trust may provide a procedure for removing a trustee under certain circumstances. A beneficiary may also petition for the trustee's removal if the trustee has committed a serious breach of trust, or of other grounds exist for removal under South Dakota law.
Trust Accounting – A trustee may be (but is not always) required to provide beneficiaries with information and records concerning the assets in the trust, which is referred to as an accounting. Legal proceedings may arise if beneficiaries (or co-trustees) believe the accounting is incomplete or inaccurate. An objection to the trust accounting can be filed and presented to a judge for consideration in appropriate circumstances.
Appointment and Removal of Personal Representatives – A personal representative is often appointed to administer the estate of a deceased person when there are assets not held in a trust. An interested person can petition the Court to remove a personal representative for various reasons, including for mismanaging the estate, failing to perform his or her duties, or if removal is in the best interests of the estate.
Partition Actions – A partition action occurs when joint owners of real property cannot agree on the disposition of the property. Any owner can file a partition action and seek a court order to divide the land into separate parcels for each owner or sell the property and equitably divide the proceeds.