Contested Estate and Trust Litigation

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult for anyone to go through, but when disputes arise among heirs to an estate or beneficiaries of a trust, the experience is that much harder. These disputes may be between children of the decedent, differing interpretations of a will, challenges to the validity of a will or suspected wrongdoing on the part of an executor or trustee.

Matthew R. Hess is a skilled trial lawyer with more than 15 years of experience litigating cases at both the trial court and appellate court levels. Whether you are being sued in your capacity as a fiduciary (executor, administrator or trustee) or you are an heir or beneficiary who suspects wrongdoing, Mr. Hess will guide you through the litigation process and aggressively ensure that your interests are being pursued and protected.

Will Contests

Oftentimes, contested estate litigation occurs in the probate courts after a probate case has been opened to administer the estate. These disputes can include things like estate accounting disputes or citations to recover or discover assets, but most often they involve will contests.

A will contest is a lawsuit in which a family member or legatee sues the executor of the estate to invalidate a loved one’s will. There are many reasons why a person might bring such a lawsuit, but they include the following:

Lack of Testamentary Capacity (such as dementia, senility, medication, etc.)
Undue Influence or Duress
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Unclear Language

If you suspect that your loved one may have been vulnerable to the influence, coercion or fraud of another, you may have rights that a skilled attorney can protect. For instance, if a loved one’s will contains a provision eliminating heirs which you know that your loved did not intend to do, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel immediately. While heirs and legatees often hesitate from filing a will contest complaint out of respect for their loved one and the other heirs, if a will does not reflect the true intentions of someone who is no longer here to defend themselves then it is incumbent upon others to ensure that their true intentions are being carried out.

Trust Disputes

A trust contest lawsuit may be filed for all of the same reasons as a will contest. Additionally, when a trustee refuses to act appropriately, a lawsuit may be filed to force the trustee to properly account for all of the trust assets and pay for any damages that may have been caused by his or her wrongdoing. That type of lawsuit often includes claims for breach of fiduciary duty.

Illinois law imposes a number of fiduciary duties upon a trustee which are owed to the trust’s beneficiaries. They include:

Duty of Care – A trustee must carefully manage the assets in the trust in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust.
Duty of Impartiality – A trustee must treat all beneficiaries equally and not favor one over another.
Duty of Loyalty – A trustee must act solely in the interest of the beneficiaries and not in his or her own interest.

If a trustee fails to comply with any of these duties in administering a trust, he or she may be removed as trustee by a court or found liable for damages that have been caused by the trustee’s action or inaction. Additionally, if a trustee’s conduct is especially egregious, he or she may be forced to reimburse a beneficiary for the attorney’s fees and costs incurred with bringing the lawsuit in the first place. Matthew R. Hess is experienced in obtaining all of these remedies in the trial courts.

Illinois law imposes statutory deadlines for bringing certain claims, so if you believe that you have been wrongfully omitted from a loved one’s will or trust or if you have questions about the way in which an estate or trust is being administered in Illinois, contact Hess Law Firm today.

Although Hess Law Firm is conveniently located in Naperville, Illinois, just off Route 59 and 83rd Street, in close proximity to the suburbs of Plainfield, Aurora, Woodridge, Bolingbrook, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Oswego and Downers Grove, we work with clients from the entire Chicagoland area, and throughout Illinois. Furthermore, we will gladly meet with you at your home or other convenient location if you or a loved one is unable to physically come to the office. We welcome you to contact us to learn more or to schedule a consultation.