Trust, Probate & Fiduciary Litigation
Our firm combines the knowledge, experience and attention to detail necessary to provide clients with effective representation and solutions for disputes involving all probate matters, including: trusts, estates, fiduciary responsibilities and related matters including contested guardianships and conservatorships. Our St. Louis probate lawyers have over 30 years of combined experience in Missouri probate matters and have extensive experience in St. Louis Probate Court, St. Louis County Probate Court and St. Charles County Probate Court.
We combine our advocacy skills and experience at trial with our estate planning and administration background to provide clients with representation covering the multitude of variables and unique family dynamics that arise throughout any litigation proceeding. Our role is to help the client stay focused on the end goal of litigation and the economics of dispute resolution, often during a time when emotions may run high and sensitive family history may rise to the surface.
By clearly outlining the risks and benefits of each step and working closely with you to keep agreed-upon priorities in sight, we can remain focused on achieving your desired result.
We frequently handle cases in each of the following areas of trust, estate and fiduciary disputes:
Trust, Probate & Fiduciary Litigation
Frequently Asked Questions
The overarching duty of a Trustee, or the person(s) legally responsible for administration of a Trust and its assets, is to protect the needs of the Trust’s beneficiary or beneficiaries. With this in mind, a Trustee should inform beneficiaries about the state and management of the Trust’s assets and investments. The Trustee should also ensure that all tax obligations are met and income tax returns are filed. In addition, the Trustee is responsible for paying any tax preparation or legal fees incurred by the Trust, managing all accounts, and overseeing any investments and distributions made to beneficiaries. The actions of the Trustee must comply explicitly with the Trust’s provisions.
A fiduciary, such as a Trustee of a Trust or the Personal Representative (sometimes called the Executor) of a Probate Estate, owes certain duties to the beneficiaries of the Trust or the Probate Estate, as the case may be. Generally speaking, a breach of fiduciary duty occurs when a fiduciary fails – intentionally or otherwise – to act in the beneficiary’s best interest, such as in direct opposition to the express terms of a Trust instrument. One example of a breach of fiduciary duty is when a fiduciary acts in his/her own personal interest rather than that of the beneficiary or beneficiaries whose Trust interests the fiduciary is obligated to legally protect.
Probate is the legal transfer of a deceased person’s assets to any party or entity designated to receive the deceased person’s assets. Probate assets are titled in a person’s sole name upon death, outside of a Trust instrument and without any successorship rights expressly designated to other person(s). Claims by creditors or parties against the deceased individual are often settled from the proceeds of the probate estate. If a person dies with a Last Will, his/her assets are transferred pursuant to the Last Will’s provisions. If a person dies without a Last Will (known as “intestate”), the state’s probate laws covering intestate estates will determine who receives the deceased’s assets.
A guardianship is focused on the care of the individual’s personal needs, for example, day-to-day care, education, placement, and medical needs. A conservatorship provides for management of a person’s assets and finances. Generally, a guardianship and/or a conservatorship may be necessary for a minor child whose parents are unfit, unwilling, or unable to meet the child’s physical needs or to manage assets held in the child’s name alone. Guardianship and/or conservatorship may also be necessary for an adult who is deemed incapacitated and/or disabled and, therefore, cannot alone make decisions about their wellbeing and/or finances. Together, guardianships and conservatorships are intended to protect all interests of individuals deemed unable to manage their own affairs.
Trust administration is the management and oversight of all assets placed in a Trust by a Grantor (sometimes known as a Settlor), or the person(s) who are responsible for the creation of the trust instrument. The Trustees must strictly adhere to the Trust’s provisions, which includes managing all assets in the Trust, making distributions to beneficiaries, and paying any applicable taxes and expenses of Trust administration (such as attorney’s fees or CPA fees when needed)Trust administration also includes regular and complete accounting of the Trust’s expenditures and distributions.
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If you need help with Trust, Probate and Fiduciary Litigation, having the right representation is important.
Contact Schmidt Basch, LLC today, and our team will promptly reach out to schedule your consultation.