Estate Litigation

Litigation is the term used to describe the process by which the Court system is utilized to obtain assistance obtaining, protecting and defending your rights. It usually involves adversarial parties, but not always.

However, it is a legal process that follows court procedures and rules which are unfamiliar to most people.

Not every lawyer is familiar with the rules and regulations of court proceedings.

In fact, some lawyers can go through an entire career and never step foot in a courtroom.  A “litigator” is someone who actually goes to court and has knowledge and skill in following rules of court, addressing the court, knowing how to argue cases and present evidence.

    Estate Litigation

    Unfortunately, children who fought over “toys” when they were younger, may still fight over “toys” when they are older.  Whereas mom and dad were the “referees” when they were alive, once they pass, someone else has to fill that role.  Frequently, that is the judge in a court.  We have seen estate litigation usually arising from one or more of the following:

    • Documents Issues  — sometimes documents are not drafted with the precision required to avoid disputes.  Other times, documents that were precise and adequate when drafted, become obsolete and confusing because they were not updated with changing family situations.  When there is a question over the meaning and/or interpretation of the estate plan, litigation may be required to settle the question.
    • Trustees Issues —  not every trustee named in a Trust is up to the task.  Sometimes there are “delays” in administration (perceived or real) which cause beneficiaries to become anxious and worried.  It is also not unusual to see favoritism displayed by a trustee to their “favorite” sibling or others.  The probate code has certain requirements of a trustee to fulfill their fiduciary duties.  Whenever the breach those duties, it may take litigation to correct the issue.
    • Beneficiary/Heir Issues —  people or institutions who are to receive something from an estate, can also be the source of problems.  Some may challenge the estate plan thinking they should receive more.  Others challenge the very authenticity of the documents.  Also, festering sibling rivalries and unresolved childhood conflicts manifest themselves when the parents pass.  Even people/entities who are to receive a small percentage of the estate can cause big problems for those trying to “settle” the estate of the deceased.

    Who We Represent

    Copenbarger & Copenbarger represents those desiring to ensure that their rights are protected.  To that end we have represented:

    • Beneficiaries who feel the trustee/administrator is not following the law or estate planning documents; those who want to know what their rights are; those who weren’t sure if they were included in the trust documents
    • Trustees/fiduciaries:  we help trustees/administrators follow the law and defend them when challenged. We have represented, high-net-worth individuals and their families, executors, trustees, administrators and other fiduciaries, as well as non-profit organizations.

    What Types of Cases We Handle

    Copenbarger & Copenbarger handles every aspect of trust and probate litigation:

    •       Who is the proper trustee;
    •       Who are the proper beneficiaries;
    •       Were proper notices given;
    •       Disputes concerning what assets a person/entity is entitled to;
    •       Administration and handling trusts assets;
    •       Investment of trust assets;
    •       Management of family business after the death of a family member;
    •       Disputes over the interpretation/terms of a trust;
    •       Breach of fiduciary duty claims;
    •       Undue influence claims;
    •       Actions taken by agents under powers of attorney;
    •       Removal of trustees and charging them for mismanagment;
    •       Getting assets into a trust that were inadvertently left out (Heggstad Petitions (California Probate Code § 850 petitions)
    •       Other questions and disputes that arise in the area of estate and trust law.

    Other Litigation

    If you have other disputes that may require litigation, please contact us.  C&C may be able to help you directly, or refer you to trusted partners to meet your litigation needs.  In the past, we have successfully handled litigation involving contract disputes, elder abuse, personal injury and wrongful death.  We have also partnered with, and referred cases to other attorneys who assisted our valued clients in obtaining favorable results.

    Why Copenbarger & Copenbarger LLP?

    We are a full-service law firm that has been serving families throughout California since 1979. Since the beginning, our firm’s goal has been to protect clients just like you and families just like yours by protecting your legacy and resources for generations to come. We recognize that every person is a unique individual with unique needs and circumstances. We aim to be your first resource for all professional needs and to ensure that your choices, your wishes, and your legacy are protected.

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