Georgia Trust Litigation Attorneys
Whether you are a trustee or a beneficiary, our Georgia trust litigation attorneys can represent you in a lawsuit concerning most all aspects of trust estate administration. We represent parties in trust litigation in Georgia who live out of state, as well as local trustees and trust estate beneficiaries. As trust attorneys, our firm has a practice area emphasis in evaluating and protecting the rights of trust beneficiaries.
Trust Beneficiary Claims
A trust has been identified as “a fiduciary relationship with respect to property arising from a settlor’s intention to impose equitable duties on a person to hold, manage or otherwise administer the property for the benefit of another person”. A trustee has a duty of utmost good faith and loyalty to honestly administer the trust estate for the beneficiaries of the trust, and to make distributions to the trust beneficiaries in accordance with the trust. Trust beneficiaries often have claims against the trustee for breach of trust resulting from improper management of trust assets, self-dealing, concealment and removal of trust assets, and failure to appropriately distribute trust assets. A trustee has a heightened duty of honesty, integrity and selflessness in the performance of the trustee’s duties for the beneficiaries of the trust estate. Our trust estate attorneys are familiar with applicable Georgia law and trust estate administration and frequently represent beneficiaries of trust estates to obtain what is rightfully theirs. We are diligent and experienced in pursuing claims against trustees or relating to the administration of trust assets.
Trustee Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Trustees have a duty to comply with the terms of the trust and shall be accountable to the beneficiary for the trust property. A violation by a trustee of any duty that the trustee owes the beneficiary shall be a breach of trust. When a trustee fails to comply with the terms of the trust or applicable Georgia law, such trustee is breaching a fiduciary duty owed to the beneficiaries. A breach of fiduciary duty often results in a beneficiary not receiving what he or she is entitled to receive under the trust, and creates a need for prompt communication with the trustee to enforce the rights of the beneficiary. Sometimes the breach requires filing suit in the Superior Court against a trustee. Such breaches may be in the form of removing or self-dealing in trust assets, the improper sale of trust assets, the improper management or investment of trust assets, concealment of trust assets or failure to account for trust assets in accordance with the trust. Trust beneficiaries may have a cause of action to recover damages, compel the trustee to perform the trustee’s duties, require an accounting, enjoin the trustee from committing a breach of trust, compel the trustee to redress a breach of trust, remove the trustee, or reduce or deny compensation to the trustee. Our trust attorneys are experienced in addressing trustee violations and seeking appropriate remedies and damages for the beneficiaries.
Trustee Duties and Responsibility to Beneficiaries
Georgia law identifies that a trustee shall administer the trust solely in the interest of the beneficiaries. Unless the trust otherwise indicates another intention of the settlor, the trustee should administer a trust impartially based on what is fair and reasonable to all the beneficiaries and with due regard to the respective interests of income beneficiaries and remainder beneficiaries. A trustee has legal authority under Georgia law to acquire, hold and transfer title to property. A trustee must execute his or her duties as trustee in good faith for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Consequently, it is not uncommon for the responsible trustee to seek and obtain written consent from trust beneficiaries, seek legal advice and counsel, or review, approval or guidance from a Superior Court judge. Our firm is familiar with these processes and can assist the trustee in efficiently and correctly administering the trust estate or the beneficiary in evaluating, opening lines of communication, and pursuing claims against trustees in Georgia.
Irrevocable Trust Management after Death of Grantor
A number of settlors have created Georgia based irrevocable trusts, or revocable trusts for the benefit of the grantor while alive becoming irrevocable upon the death of the grantor. Many irrevocable trusts become funded with life insurance insuring the life of the grantor that is payable upon the death of the grantor. Other trusts becoming irrevocable contain the assets of the grantor held by the grantor as trustee or in the name of the trust at the death of the grantor. These trusts require the trustee to marshal all appropriate trust assets including life insurance proceeds and to hold, manage and distribute the trust estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries under the trust agreement. It is not uncommon for family members to be involved as trustees or co-trustees and yet such persons are not treated any differently under the laws of the state of Georgia and have a duty of utmost good faith and loyalty to honestly administer the trust estate for the beneficiaries of the trust. The trustee has a duty of loyalty to act in the best interest, and only in the best interest, of the beneficiaries of the trust and not in the best interest of the trustee (unless the trustee is also a beneficiary and, in such circumstances, in a manner consistent with the best interest of all beneficiaries). The trustee has a duty to preserve the trust assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries and to avoid actions that even have the appearance of a conflict of interest which often occurs in any self-dealing in trust assets. Our attorneys have extensive experience in understanding the obligations of the trustee, guiding and protecting the trustee, and protecting the rights and pursuing the claims of beneficiaries of trusts in Georgia.