Civil Litigation

There are situations where families and friends unravel; when bad things happen to good people; when good intentions are simply not enough. We are knowledgeable about the legal processes that can protect our family and friends from the predators that do exist. We can guide you through the process, and hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions.

There are a number of types of fiduciary litigation cases we accept. In general, they are those that are integral to our core firm areas of Elder Law, Estate and Special Needs Planning, and Guardian and Conservatorships, as well as Fiduciary Administration. These cases typically fall into the following categories:

Disputed Guardianships / Conservatorships: We represent families in defending against Guardianships or Conservatorships, or when the wrong person is asking to be named as guardian or conservator; or when the guardian or conservator is acting inappropriately.

• A Guardian is a person appointed by the Court to make personal decisions for a person under an incapacity.
• A Conservator is a person appointed by the Court to make financial decisions for a person under an incapacity.

When families are concerned that a Guardianship or Conservatorship action is unnecessary, whether because the loved one is still competent, or there is an Agent acting to protect the loved one, we can help defend against the court action. Similarly, if a Guardianship or Conservatorship is appropriate, but the family believes the person asking to be appointed as Guardian or Conservator will not protect the best interest of the loved one, we can represent a more appropriate person to request that appointment. Finally, if an appointed Guardian or Conservator is not advocating the best interest of the incapacitated, we can help by asking the Court to remove and replace the acting Guardian or Conservator, and to craft an appropriate remedy for any damage caused.

We also, of course, file for Guardianships and / or Conservatorships. You can find more information on Guardianships and Conservatorships on our website under Practice Areas, Guardianships & Conservatorships (Click Here).

Financial Abuse or Exploitation by an Agent, Executor or Administrator, or Trustee (a “Fiduciary”): A fiduciary is someone who has been given authority to deal with financial matters for another person. Examples include Agent under a Power of Attorney, Executor or Administrator or Personal Representative under a Will, or Trustee under a Trust. Those acting with this kind of authority are entrusted with the responsibility to act in the best interest of the person who has given the financial authority. When the fiduciary fails to act as required by law, we will advise about legal actions that may be needed to protect our clients and their loved ones from financial abuse. We will also provide counsel about means to recover the fiduciary’s ill-gotten gain.

Financial Abuse or Exploitation by a non-fiduciary: In these tough economic times, we are seeing more and more circumstances where a family member (the “donor”) is providing support to another family member (the “donee”). As long as the donor is competent and willing, this is a normal family matter and not subject to court proceedings. However, in some situations, the donor may have limited capacity, or be under duress or undue influence such that the donor feels forced to provide this support. We advise those concerned about the donor with the legal requirements, as well as legal strategies for limiting or eliminating the gifts, and even recovery of the assets where possible.

Non-Financial Abuse, Elder Abuse: Abuse comes, unfortunately, in many guises. It may be actual physical abuse or a failure to provide necessary care; it may be preventing a loved one from reaching out to family, friends and neighbors; it may even be a disagreement over cremation or burial, or where a person should be buried. We can review the legal solutions to these issues.

Will Contests: To make a legal Will, a person has to be competent to understand the document, must not be acting under duress or undue influence, and the Will must be signed with the appropriate legal formalities. Particularly in this day and age of internet and “off the rack” Will forms, Wills are often created and signed without any professional oversight. A Will Contest challenges the validity of a Will on any or all of these points. We represent families in Will Contests.

Beneficiary Representation: The death of a parent or other loved one brings some families together. However, it also drives families apart as the family deals with dividing up the estate. The process can be divisive and dispute-ridden. We provide representation to beneficiaries, to assure that their rights are protected, and they receive what the Will and the law states is rightfully theirs.

Litigation we do not accept: As a small firm we believe in living up to our firm’s foundational belief: “Experienced, Compassionate, Committed to Excellence”. Just as it is important to know what types of cases we are willing to accept, we believe in limiting our representation to those cases that fall within our area of expertise. If you have a question about litigation that does not fall within our area of expertise, we are willing to recommend another firm that may be able to assist.