Probate avoidance techniques, once a “trend” used to pass assets at death without court supervision, are now common practice. There is also a corresponding rise in disputes by and among beneficiaries and fiduciaries concerning estate plans and the administration of estates and irrevocable trusts. In addition, there are more individuals serving as trustees than ever before, with a corresponding rise in disputes caused by inexperienced trustees handling complex trust matters.
Bryan Cave’s Fiduciary Litigation Team combines strength, experience and global resources to handle today’s highly-specialized fiduciary litigation involving often complex trust, estate, guardianship and similar matters at both the trial and appellate levels in jurisdictions nationwide. We have successfully represented individuals, charitable organizations, educational institutions, banks and trust companies in thousands of such matters spanning the full spectrum of fiduciary issues.
Our attorneys have a deep understanding of the substantive common law and statutory requirements governing fiduciary disputes, including the Uniform Trust Code, the Uniform Probate Code, the Uniform Principal and Income Acts, the Prudent Investor Act and the important fiduciary exceptions to attorney-client privilege laws. With these evolving probate and trust laws as a foundation, our attorneys work alongside:
- Executors, trustees and other fiduciaries. They are frequent targets of unhappy beneficiaries and co-fiduciaries. In addition to defending them in court, our group advises fiduciaries every day on ways to avoid litigation and, when possible, on proven techniques for amicably resolving disputes before going to court.
- Banks and trust companies. Our attorneys analyze policies and practices before problems arise in order to improve the chance of avoiding litigation. We make timely and creative recommendations for improvements.
As part of our firmwide commitment to anticipate legal problems rather than react to them, our team includes both estate planning lawyers and trial lawyers who regularly confer on litigation prevention techniques for our trust and estate clients.
If litigation becomes unavoidable, our attorneys succeed for clients through well-planned and well-coordinated preparation and trial presentation. Our representation includes pre-litigation fact review; advice and strategic planning; pleadings preparation; document discovery; and depositions. We continue to explore mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods until the trial or hearing. Bryan Cave also has a strong success rate on appeal.
We have invested heavily in technology to provide all clients with better, faster, more cost-efficient services. We meet with clients at the start of each new engagement to determine how best to address and solve their problems through a combination of excellent legal skills and technology solutions. Our lawyers use the industry’s most advanced computer and communication devices, information management systems and Web tools for a customized trial approach. When needed, this technology and Bryan Cave’s established “One Firm” concept can quickly link clients with attorneys from our Fiduciary Litigation Team in all of our offices from Shanghai to London, and from New York to Southern California. Our Fiduciary Litigation Team is one of the largest in the U.S. and one of the few coordinating the substantive and procedural skills of our Team to deliver the highest quality fiduciary litigation advice and service to our clients nationwide.