Trust & Estate Litigation and Family Business Disputes

Disputes relating to trusts, estates, and family businesses have a unique dynamic, one that SGR litigators know well. We counsel families through the thorny issues and controversies that can arise during and after the transfer of wealth from one generation to another—whether through estate planning bequests or the sale or transfer of a family business.

In addition to traditional estate and probate disputes, our team litigates a variety of related cases, the outcomes of which often have multi-generational effects on the family business and estate. We represent trustees, executors, personal representatives, beneficiaries, and family business owners in cases involving:

  • Breach of trust
  • Trust construction and reformation
  • Fiduciary tax-related disputes
  • Trustee removal
  • Will contests and Will construction
  • Undue influence and lack of capacity
  • Trust accounting disputes
  • Inter-family disputes relating to family business interests

Nationwide Experience in Trust & Estate Litigation
SGR’s Trust & Estate Litigation and Family Business Dispute team can handle matters and controversies across the country. With offices in multiple states, we have represented corporate trustees, individual beneficiaries and trustees, and family business owners in cases filed in Georgia, Florida, Illinois, California, and New York, among others.

Comprehensive Legal Services
Our litigators work in tandem with our colleagues in related disciplines to provide top-notch service. SGR’s national corporate, real estate, tax, and trust and estate planning practices, together with our litigation team, allow for a multi-prong approach to resolving complex family trust and business disputes.

Representative Experience

Trust & Estate Litigation

Undue Influence Claims

  • Defended widow against claims that she unduly influenced her husband and tortiously interfered with his adult children’s inheritance in connection with the creation of a joint tenancy in an investment account prior to the husband’s death.
  • Defended trustee of the Estate against petition alleging undue influence and elder abuse and seeking an accounting, restitution, a turnover of assets, and payment of attorneys’ fees.

Estate Tax Penalties

  • Represented trust beneficiary in dispute with family-member trustee relating to multi-million-dollar tax penalties assessed by the IRS for undeclared offshore trust accounts.
  • Represented beneficiaries in litigation relating to the untimely filing of generational skipping trust tax returns resulting in substantial tax fines and penalties.

Disputed Insurance Beneficiary Claims

  • Represented trust beneficiary children in a lawsuit against their stepmother trustee following life insurance beneficiary changes, resulting in a substantial shift of assets from the beneficiaries to the trustee.

Breaches of Fiduciary Duty Claims

  • Represented trust beneficiary in obtaining an injunction preventing the trustee from using trust assets to defend multiple breach of trust claims asserted against the trustee.
  • Defended national bank, which was appointed guardian of multi-million-dollar estate established for the benefit of disabled juvenile, in lawsuit filed by the family of the ward.

Trustee Accountings

  • Represented trust beneficiary in a summary administration probate proceeding and related appeal, as well as in an action to approve trustee accountings under Florida law.

Will & Trust Bequest Challenges

  • Represented trust beneficiary children in lawsuit against other trust beneficiaries over the validity of bequests of trust assets, including steel mill and millions of dollars’ worth of seats on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, in favor of the children of a second marriage of the deceased.
  • Represented a non-for-profit hospital, as the recipient of a large bequest upon the death of a former patient, in litigation brought by family-member beneficiaries of the patient’s estate.

Family Business Dispute Litigation

Breaches of Fiduciary Duty Claims

  • Represented ex-wife/majority shareholder in dispute with ex-husband/former president of family-owned business relating to embezzlement of company funds and other breaches of fiduciary duty.
  • Represented three daughters in a dispute against their father relating to their father’s mismanagement and waste of assets of the family business.
  • Represented family business owner against claims against cousin employee for misappropriating corporate opportunities.

Breaches of Statutory Duty Claims and Demands for Accountings

  • Represented trust beneficiaries in suit against family member trustee to appoint a receiver over family-owned real estate business and demand for accounting.

Shareholder Oppression Claims

  • Defended a national company and its majority shareholders, a father and one son, in a shareholder oppression lawsuit filed by minority shareholder son seeking to dissolve or force sell the company.
  • Defended majority owner son against claims brought by his mother and brother, minority shareholders, who alleged the majority owner son was abusing his corporate authority and discretion.
  • Represented minority shareholder in a dispute relating to unauthorized and excessive compensation taken by family member employee.

Business Valuation Disputes

  • Defended a national company and its founder in a lawsuit brought by an ex-fiancée, who claimed she was entitled to half of the increase in the value of the company during the period of the engagement on a joint enterprise theory.
  • Represented majority shareholder in dispute with family-member trustee regarding valuation and transfer of shares of family business.

Trust and estate disputes can be complex and emotionally charged. Our experienced team at SGR is here to help you navigate through every legal challenge. Please email Co-Leaders, Meghan Tepas and Terrence Sheahan, of this practice group to help guide you through the process.

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