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New York City Bankruptcy Lawyer / Estate & Trust Litigation

New York City Estate & Trust Litigation Lawyer

As legal documents, wills, trusts and other testamentary instruments may become the subject of legal disputes. Parties to the dispute might resort to litigation to resolve the conflict by bringing the matter into court and letting a judge decide how the instrument should be interpreted and how it should be enforced, if at all. Veteran New York City estate & trust litigation lawyer Harry D. Lewis is skilled and knowledgeable in the litigation of estates and trusts disputes among heirs and beneficiaries. He handles all manner of estates and trusts litigation in New York, including situations where heirs are dissatisfied with their share of an inheritance compared to other heirs, or where trust beneficiaries have a complaint regarding the trustee’s performance of duties. If you find yourself embroiled in an estate or trust dispute in New York, contact the Law Office of Harry D. Lewis for practical advice and passionate representation in the resolution of your legal matter.

A History of Advocating for Testators and Heirs

Mr. Lewis’ activities in the arena of estates and trusts litigation over the past 20 years include the following highlights:

  • Litigation in Staten Island and Brooklyn Surrogate’s Courts alleging elder abuse in coercing an elderly parent to change his $400 million estate plan to the detriment of his widow and children
  • Litigation in New York County Surrogate’s Court and Supreme Court, and in Florida Circuit Court, to protect a minor heir’s interests in multiple family trusts

Call the Law Office of Harry D. Lewis for assistance in any of the following areas.

Will Contests

Wills can be challenged on a number of grounds, but the most common include allegations of lack of capacity or undue influence. Having testamentary capacity means that the person making the will (the testator) knows the details of his or her estate and understands that he or she is planning for the disposition of the estate by making a will. Testamentary capacity is a basic requirement for making a valid will. Challenges to the testator’s capacity become increasingly more likely when wills are made, changed or revoked as the testator gets older.

Similarly, will contests based on undue influence are more likely among older testators who make or change a will. Challengers might allege that a caregiver, close family member or friend exerted undue influence on the testator to make will provisions that favored the caregiver at the expense of other heirs. Related grounds for will challenges include:

  • Coercion
  • Duress
  • Fraud
  • Mistake

Will contests are often brought by an heir who was slated to receive a larger inheritance under a previous will or who would receive more if there were no valid will, under New York laws of intestate succession.

Trust Litigation

Trust contests can also allege a lack of capacity or undue influence on the maker of the trust. If an interested party can get the trust declared invalid, the property in the trust will revert to the estate and be distributed through probate, perhaps to the benefit of the party who challenged the trust.

Trust litigation also frequently involves challenges to the performance of the trustee. In a trust, the creator of the trust transfers the legal title of assets to the trust, and those assets are managed for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries, who will later receive title to the property on the creator’s death or some other named event. The trustee, in consequence, owes fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries. The trustee must, for example:

  • Maintain loyalty and impartiality toward the beneficiaries
  • Manage and invest trust property prudently and productively
  • Avoid conflicts of interest or self-dealing
  • Provide accountings of trust property

One or more beneficiaries might allege that the trustee is violating fiduciary duties and seek to remove the trustee.

Inter-Family Disputes

The Law Office of Harry D. Lewis is frequently brought in to resolve internecine disputes among family members regarding wills, trusts and estates. In blended families, disputes can arise between children from a first marriage and the children of the second marriage or the step-parent. In other circumstances, litigation might ensue when a child or other heir is disinherited or is given a lesser share compared to other heirs in the same class. Situations like these invite litigation when the testator’s intentions were not clear, and sometimes even if they were.

Help With New York City Estate & Trust Litigation

For strategic advice and compelling advocacy in trust and estate litigation in New York City, call the Law Office of Harry D. Lewis at 212-859-5067.

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