In matters where a trustee is acting neglectfully, or worse, maliciously toward the beneficiaries, the latter can feel victimized by this lifetime legal agreement that they did not ask for. This was the case for six (6) individual beneficiaries. Their beloved unmarried and childless uncle had been the lucky winner of a large lottery sum. While he was alive, Uncle W ensured that his nieces and nephews were cared for by virtue of annual draws on trusts that he secured with an attorney whom he innocently chose from the phone book. During the uncle’s life, the beneficiaries sensed they were reluctantly being disbursed their inheritance by the trust and dreaded the unavoidable end to their aging uncle’s life beyond just the loss of a loved one. What would happen after Uncle W passed away and they were left to deal with the difficult trust attorney?
The inevitable did happen. After much loving care for their aging uncle, he passed and was laid to rest. However, no peace was in sight for his remaining loved ones. Instead, it was just the beginning of a stand-off between the beneficiaries, their rightful inheritance via the trust and trustee fixated on keeping as much in the trust as he could for his own personal gains. After many years of conflict including improper/questionable disbursements, late disbursements, improper or zero documentation, questionable tax filings, withholding funds (for cancer treatment) and other egregious acts, the beneficiaries decided to seek justice, and more importantly, respect for their uncle’s final wishes.
After years of frustration due to a lack of transparency, the beneficiaries retained me, Lee R. Allman, Esquire to investigate the trustee’s conduct. I successfully resolved this large fiduciary litigation matter whereby I took on the trustee/executor of the estate and several trusts which the trustee/executor administered for several years after the death of the settlor/testator.
After accountings were filed, I discovered that the trustee incorrectly used the wrong source of funds to pay the federal estate and Pennsylvania inheritance taxes to the beneficiaries’ detriment in an amount that exceeded over $1,000,000 (one million dollars). In addition, I discovered that the trustee/executor, also a lawyer, charged the estate and trusts excessive trustee and legal fees.
Litigation ended with the trustee agreeing to properly account and distribute to the beneficiaries over $1,000,000 (one million dollars) that should have been distributed to them outright, versus in trust, and also terminating the trust under the will whereby the remaining corpus would be distributed to the beneficiaries outright under a unique provision in the document permitting the trustee to do so. As a result, each of the five (5) of the surviving beneficiaries received approximately $1,000,000 outright, versus held in trust for their lifetimes only.
Opposing counsel representing the trustee paid compliment to my skill in developing the record by adding, “You have done an excellent job litigating this matter, including uncovering the ILIT issue related to the payment of estate taxes. . . . Your efforts have already resulted in your clients receiving compensatory [over $1,000,000 in] distributions.”
The Next Steps
If you believe your trust is being mishandled or endangered, I may be able to help you. Contact Lee R. Allman via mobile: (609) 658-0126 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.