ABCs of Will, Trust & Inheritance Litigation

What to do if you have an inheritance dispute; Will and Trust Contests; Disputes between Beneficiaries and Trustees, Undue Influence and other probate litigation matters. Our experienced Will and Trust litigation attorneys can help you resolve your inheritance dispute.


If you have a dispute involving inheritance such as a will or a trust, questions involving improper actions by trustees, a will or trust contest, or similar matter, you can telephone us at 714-450-6568 for a free legal consultation with an experienced lawyer. One of our experienced will and trust litigation attorneys will speak with you immediately, at no charge and if appropriate we will schedule a no-charge in-office consultation where we can examine documents and discuss the matter in detail to determine if you need our representation.

When you have an inheritance dispute, you need an experienced trust and probate litigation attorney. When you have a dispute with the trustee or successor-trustee of a trust of which you are a beneficiary, a dispute over the validity of a trust or will, or problems with someone exerting undue influence over someone you love, this is no longer an estate planning matter. Instead, you need help from an experienced will, trust, and inheritance litigation attorney. The expertise that is necessary for handling inheritance disputes is completely different from the skills involved in estate planning and document drafting.

At Buffington Law Firm, we are first and foremost trial and litigation attorneys. Our business is handling legal disputes. We have a long and successful track record in court litigating will and trust contests, cases involving undue influence against a loved one, issues involving improper activities of will executors and trustees and successor-trustees of trusts, and similar inheritance disputes. Our trust and inheritance litigation attorneys have been retained by individuals as well as numerous national charities and major universities to handle trust and estate disputes, cases involving improper activities of trustees, undue influence, and similar probate litigation. Our Firm is experienced and is well-known in the Orange County and Los Angeles probate courts for successfully representing clients involved in inheritance litigation of all kinds.

Types of Estate Disputes.

Will and Trust Contests. Perhaps the most basic kind of probate, will, or trust litigation that can arise is what is known as a will or trust "contest." These are situations in which either there is a dispute between beneficiaries over which will or trust is valid, or just as common, whether an important amendment to a will or trust is in fact a valid amendment or codicil. These cases often involve high dollar amounts. If you are faced with this situation you need an experienced trust and estate litigation attorney to bring your case before the Court. Invalid trusts, wills, or trust amendments can be nullified by the probate court if your case is handled properly. At Buffington Law Firm our estate litigation attorneys have frequently succeeded in having trust amendments or entire estate documents declared invalid when these were either fraudulent or the product of undue influence. We have also successfully handled trust and will disputes in which we defended the validity of wills and trusts when a relative challenged their validity. Either way, we can help you with your inheritance dispute.

Undue Influence. One of the most common forms of inheritance litigation arises in the context of "undue influence." Inheritance disputes can arise when someone takes advantage of an elderly parent or relative. What often happens is that one of the beneficiaries causes the elderly person to sign an amendment to their Trust or Will that eliminates the original intent of the older person's estate plan and instead favors the one beneficiary. Another variant on this theme is that someone pressures the elderly person to execute a deed to real property to the exclusion of the other beneficiaries and in contradiction to the real wishes of the owner. It is not necessary for a person to suffer from dementia or to lack capacity in order for a Court to overturn an action of this kind that the Court finds was caused by Undue Influence. If you believe that someone you love conveyed property or executed a trust or will as the result of undue influence, we recommend you speak with one of our experienced inheritance and probate dispute attorneys. As always, the initial consultation is at no cost to you, and at the consultation we can advise you as to legal solutions to your problem.

Renegade, out of control Trustees and Successor Trustees. This is perhaps the most common form of trust dispute involves improper actions by successor-trustees of trusts. Buffington Law Firm's experienced trust litigation attorneys have long experience dealing with misbehaving Trustees. The situation is usually some variation on the following theme. After the parents who created the trust have passed, often one or two of their sons and daughters are designated by the Trust to be successor-trustees. Usually their job is to wind up the trust and distribute the assets fairly and timely, keeping the beneficiaries informed as they do so. Successor-Trustees owe strict fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries of a trust.

Unfortunately, sometimes Successor-Trustees behave improperly. Our Firm's trust and probate attorneys have repeatedly handled trust dispute cases in which Successor-Trustees absconded with certain trust assets, made improper distributions, and mishandled their fiduciary duties. The most common warning sign by a renegade trustee is secretiveness. Often a Successor-Trustee simply refuses to keep the other beneficiaries "in the loop" concerning what the Successor-Trustee is doing in connection with the Trust assets. Naturally this can raise suspicion and often this suspicion is justified. Another warning sign is when a Successor-Trustee unreasonably delays distributing the assets and refuses to account for the trust's assets and expenditures. When Successor-Trustees behave in this manner, it is important to retain an experienced trust litigation attorney earlier rather than later, before the Trust's assets simply disappear.

Our Firm's Orange County and Los Angeles County trust litigation attorneys have frequently handled trust and estate disputes in which we obtained a court order requiring trustees to fully account for all of their actions of trustees, and to publish full financial accountings of the trust to the beneficiaries. In some cases we have obtained court orders requiring Trustees to reimburse the trust for hundreds of thousands of dollars. This kind of trust litigation can result in the probate court surcharging the trustee and awarding the petitioners' their attorney fees and court costs.

Our Firm's trust attorneys are also experienced at representing trustees who are under legal assault by beneficiaries or others. If you are in this position, our experienced trust litigation attorneys can advise and represent you.

It is never a good thing to delay if you believe that you have an inheritance dispute such as those discussed here. If you find yourself in one of these situations you can always telephone our Firm at 714-450-6568 and speak to an experienced estate litigation attorney at no charge. Usually we will follow this discussion up with a face-to-face no-charge office consultation at which we will look at your problem in detail to see if we can help. So you have nothing to lose! Call us and speak to one of our experienced trust and estate litigation attorneys today!