Undue Influence. Fraud. Incapacity. Faulty Execution. These are the primary legal grounds upon which a will or trust contest may be brought and defended. These proceedings often involve the allegation of a serious breach of trust.
At Santiago Burger LLP, we assist our clients by counseling them on the probate and administration process and the strategic and legal considerations involved in bringing and defending a challenge in New York State Supreme or Surrogate’s Courts.
It is common that we are engaged by counsel for the trust or the estate as special trial counsel when a dispute seems likely or when the attorney drafter may become a witness. Working with the family’s trusted attorney, we can take over all litigated proceedings. We can also help avoid a fight and costly litigation altogether.
Power of Attorney Misuse / Breach of Fiduciary Duty
An agent appointed under a power of attorney has an overriding obligation to act in the best interests of her principal, and in accordance with her wishes. There is no guarantee that an agent will do so and all too common is the case where the principal, or a family member or friend of the principal, finds that his or her agent has misused the power of attorney to misappropriate funds, change beneficiary designations or engage in other actions which result in financial harm (and the agent's self-enrichment). If you suspect self-dealing or breach of trust, we can help you take the next step and seek immediate redress.
Accounting Proceedings / Fiduciary Litigation
We also have vast experience assisting individual and institutional fiduciaries of trusts and estates (trustees, executors, administrators, etc.) defend their actions on behalf of the estate or trust and to protect the decedent's or settlor’s assets and final wishes from attack.
Similarly, where a fiduciary has improperly managed assets or fails to account, we represent beneficiaries, legatees, distributees, heirs and remaindermen evaluate and prosecute their claims. Trusts and estates have many of the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals.
We also represent creditors with claims against trusts and estates.
Guardianship / Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 Proceedings
When a loved one is unable to make decisions for himself or herself, a previously-appointed agent under a valid durable general power of attorney and/or health care proxy can assist him or her to make important financial and/or health decisions. If, however, a person has not appointed an agent, if the advance directives are not sufficiently broad, or if the choice of agent proves ill-advised, it may be necessary to commence a guardianship proceeding pursuant to NY Mental Hygiene Law Article 81. The attorneys at Santiago Burger LLP have experience initiating, as well as defending against, contested guardianship proceedings.