Our Practice Areas
Interior Trust & Estate Litigation
and Planning
Trusts and estate litigation pertains to the legal disputes and conflicts that arise in relation to trusts, wills, and the distribution of assets in an estate. It involves resolving conflicts such as challenges to the validity of a will, claims of undue influence or fraud, disputes over the interpretation of trust documents, and disagreements among beneficiaries regarding their rights and entitlements.

Interior Trust & Estate Litigation Attorneys

Corey Denevan, Shannon Falon and Meghann Joyce are top-rated Trust & Estate Litigation Attorneys in Interior, and surrounding areas. Trust & Estate Litigation broadly encompasses disputes related to the administration and distribution of assets controlled by a trust instrument, a last will and testament, or the laws of intestate succession. We represent fiduciaries appointed to administer the assets. We also represent beneficiaries and heirs. Trust & Estate litigation can be simple or complex depending on the nature and location of the assets involved. We have experience dealing with Trusts & Estates in the billions of dollars, assets located in off shore jurisdictions, and multi-national companies.

Our Experienced Interior Trust &
Estate Litigation Lawyers Can Help

Our lawyers at Denevan Falon Joyce have extensive knowledge of the case law and statutes involved in Trust & Estate litigation, some examples are:

Deadline to Challenge the Validity of a Trust or Will. The time for challenging the validity of a Trust or a Will is strictly construed in South Dakota. Knowledge of those deadlines is crucial to preserving the claim of a prospective beneficiary or heir.

Deadline for Challenging Fraudulent Transfers. If an individual transfers money into a trust in South Dakota to avoid his/her creditors (a fraudulent transfer) the statutory time period to seek recovery of those monies is one of the shortest in the United States and the statutes are full of trip wires for the unwary.

Notices Effecting Beneficial Interests. Trustees may provide beneficiaries with an accounting by mail or electronically, and if the beneficiary fails to object within a certain time period, the trustee is released and discharged from any and all liability to all beneficiaries of the trust as to all matters set forth in such accounting.

Sealed Court Proceedings. Court filings and proceedings involving the administration of trusts are sealed from the public in Interior.

Supervised Trust Proceedings. There are unique civil procedural rules governing trust proceedings. Court supervision of a trust is deemed to have commenced once a copy of the trust instrument, an inventory, and a list of interested parties is filed with the Court. Trust supervision can also be commenced by an order of the Court accepting supervision.

Directed Trust Structure. Interior has unique laws that allow the division of trustee responsibilities between different advisors (investment advisor, distribution advisor, family advisor, trust protectors). Interior also significantly limits the liability of fiduciaries in a directed trust model.

Delegated Duties. Interior allows for trustees and advisors to delegate their duties to others. Uncovering and understanding who is ultimately responsible for the administration of a trust can be complicated.

Quiet Trusts. Interior allows for the creation of quiet trusts, which means the beneficiaries have little or no knowledge of the trusts existence. Experienced attorneys are necessary to uncover and protect a beneficiary's interest.

Complex Trust Structuring. Many times a trust is the sole owner of various holding companies that own interests in other companies in the United States or abroad. Experience counts when trying to trace and uncover assets ultimately owned by a trust.

Special Purpose Entities Special purpose entitles are South Dakota LLC's that are formed for the specific purpose of serving as trustees, trust protectors, advisors of directed trusts in South Dakota..

Governing Laws and Conflicts of Laws. Determining the law that governs the administration, construction, and validity of a trust is important and requires experience. There may be some situations where the conflicts of law require the application of laws from another jurisdiction to a particular asset or issue in a case.

Experience and Reputation Matters.
Trust & Estate cases are filed in county circuit courts throughout the State of South Dakota. The Attorneys at Denevan Falon Joyce have represented clients in front of the judges presiding in almost every circuit court in South Dakota. Our hard work over the years has earned a reputation of being serious, intellectually honest, and ethical.

Goals of Trust
& Estate Litigation

Trust & Estate Litigation ensures that the wishes and intentions of the testator, as expressed in their will or trust, are carried out as intended. It provides a legal avenue for beneficiaries or interested parties to challenge any potential discrepancies, ambiguity, or undue influence that may exist in the estate planning documents.

Resolving Disputes: Unfortunately, conflicts can arise during the administration and distribution of assets. South Dakota laws allow beneficiaries, heirs and fiduciaries to put aside their differences and come up with unique and workable solutions that perhaps were not foreseen by the grantor of the trust, the decedent, or their lawyers. Understanding how to craft a solution to differences can save a lot of time and money.

Ensuring Fiduciary Accountability: Fiduciaries, such as executors, administrators, or trustees, have a legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Trust & Estate Litigation plays a critical role in holding fiduciaries accountable for their actions or inactions. If a fiduciary is suspected of mismanagement, fraud, self-dealing, or other breaches of duty, the court can intervene, conduct an investigation, and take appropriate action to protect the beneficiaries' rights.

Safeguarding Vulnerable Beneficiaries: It is particularly important in cases involving vulnerable beneficiaries, such as minors, individuals with disabilities, or those who are financially inexperienced. It ensures that their interests are protected and that they receive the support and resources they need. The court can appoint guardians or conservators to oversee the management and distribution of assets on their behalf, providing an extra layer of protection.

Preserving Estate Assets: In some cases the trust estate or a decedent's estate contains assets that are difficult to preserve, difficult to value, and difficult to divide. Having experienced counsel to assist in the management of the assets and maximizing the value of these assets is crucial. In other cases, assets are easily misappropriated or misused. Litigation is a process to prevent or recover assets from a fraudster fiduciary or a third party who may be diverting or embezzling assets.

How Denevan Falon Joyce
Can Help You With Your Trust & Estate Litigation Case

Case Evaluation: We thoroughly assess the facts and circumstances of each case to determine its strengths, weaknesses, and potential legal claims.

Legal Strategy Development: Based on the case evaluation, we develop a tailored legal strategy aligned with our clients' objectives. We work closely with our clients to understand their goals and priorities, and then outline the most effective course of action.

Documentation Preparation: Trust & estate litigation is document intensive. We work with our clients to prepare the necessary legal documents, such as complaints, petitions, answers, objections, motions, and discovery requests to properly prosecute or defend a case.
Discovery Process Management: We guide our clients through the discovery process, which involves exchanging information and evidence with the opposing party through written interrogatories, request for production of documents, depositions and subpoenas to third parties. We ensure that all evidence obtained in discovery is organized and maintained throughout the proceedings. We reassess the case with our clients as discovery progresses and additional facts come to light.

Settlement Negotiations: At all stages of the legal proceeding, we encourage our clients to consider and engage in settlement negotiations to explore potential resolutions outside of court.

Motion Practice and Trial We diligently prepare for each time that we appear in Court on behalf of a clients. We conduct thorough research, assemble evidence, and craft persuasive legal arguments that advance our client's interests.
Find Answers to Common Inquiries
FAQs About Trust & Estate Litigation

What is trust and estate litigation?

Trust and estate litigation is a specific area of law that addresses disputes related to trusts, estates, wills, and other inheritance issues. This can include disputes over the administration or management of a trust, the validity of a will, or the rights and obligations of beneficiaries and trustees.

When should I consider Trust & Estate Litigation?

Considering Trust & Estate Litigation is a significant decision that often arises when there are disputes or concerns related to the administration, validity, or execution of a trust or estate. Here are some situations when you might consider trust & estate litigation:

Validity of Documents: If you believe a will or trust document was executed under undue influence, duress, fraud, or when the creator lacked the mental capacity, you may want to challenge its validity.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty: If a trustee, executor, or personal representative is not acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries or is mismanaging the assets, you may consider litigation to hold them accountable.

Interpretation Issues: Sometimes the language of a will or trust can be ambiguous or unclear, leading to disputes about its correct interpretation.

Improper Distributions: If you believe assets are being distributed in a way that doesn't align with the terms of the will or trust, litigation might be an option.

Accounting Disputes: Beneficiaries have the right to an accounting of the trust or estate's assets, debts, distributions, and other transactions. If the trustee or executor refuses to provide this, or if there are discrepancies in the accounting, you might consider litigation.

Asset Recovery: If assets have been wrongly taken from the estate or trust, litigation can help in recovering those assets.

What is the role of a fiduciary in Trust & Estate Administration?

A fiduciary, such as an executor, administrator, or trustee, has a legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Their role involves managing and distributing assets according to the terms of the will or trust, paying debts and taxes, and ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Do I need an attorney for Trust & Estate Litigation?

It is highly advisable to engage with an attorney for several reasons:

Complexity of Law: Trust and estate laws can be intricate and vary significantly by jurisdiction. An attorney can help navigate these complexities, ensuring that your case is presented accurately and compellingly.

Understanding Procedures: Litigation involves numerous procedural rules, from filing deadlines to evidentiary requirements. Failing to adhere to these procedures can harm your case. An attorney will be familiar with the necessary protocols, ensuring your case progresses without procedural hiccups.

Effective Strategy: A seasoned attorney can advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case, help you understand your legal rights and options, and craft an effective litigation strategy tailored to your specific situation.

Negotiation and Mediation: Not all disputes need to end up in court. An experienced attorney can guide you through alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or direct negotiations, potentially leading to a quicker and less expensive resolution.

Protection of Rights: An attorney will work to protect your rights and interests. They can help prevent you from making potentially damaging statements or decisions and ensure you're treated fairly throughout the litigation process.

What is the difference between a Will and a Trust?

A will is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets should be distributed after their death. A trust, on the other hand, is a legal entity created to hold and manage assets for the benefit of beneficiaries during their lifetime and after their death. Trusts can provide benefits such as probate avoidance, asset protection, and privacy.

How long does trust and estate litigation usually take?

The duration of trust and estate litigation can vary widely based on the complexity of the issues, the parties involved, and the specifics of the case. Some disputes may be resolved quickly through negotiation, while others may require prolonged court proceedings. Denevan Falon Joyce attorneys will strive to resolve matters efficiently, keeping your best interests in mind.

Why is South Dakota a significant jurisdiction for trust and estate litigation?

South Dakota has become known for its favorable trust laws, which offer significant advantages in terms of asset protection, tax benefits, and privacy. This has made the state a popular jurisdiction for creating and administering trusts.

Why would someone need litigation in trust and estate matters?

Disputes can arise for various reasons, including:

• Suspected fraud or undue influence in the creation of a will or trust.
• Disagreements among beneficiaries about the distribution of assets.
• Concerns about the actions or decisions of a trustee.
• Interpretation of unclear terms in a will or trust.

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