When should a trustee hire an attorney in Illinois?

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If you are chosen to be the trustee of someone's estate, you've been given a great honor, a big responsibility and, sometimes, a tremendous amount of work. Your task as trustee is to carry out the wishes of the deceased and act in the interest of the beneficiaries. You may find yourself in a challenging role as the process of settling an estate can create contention within the family and among beneficiaries.

As a trustee, you will reveal how the deceased wishes to distribute financial assets and personal property. Hopefully, all wishes have been spelled out in the will or trust. It will make your job much easier. However, even an up-to-date will or a long-established trust may be subject to legal challenge or vulnerable to abuse. As someone close to the deceased, you may also be among the beneficiaries, and this can create suspicion as you distribute assets. You may have received a larger distribution (and perhaps a trustee fee), and others may suspect an impropriety, a breach of trust or a breach of fiduciary duty. These disputes, sometimes between family members who experienced no conflict in the past, can turn into actual litigation.

While the distribution of financial assets is often straightforward, distribution of tangible property can be a bit tricky. Disputes can easily erupt, especially if property has not been designated in writing for specific people. Emotions can run high over valuable collectibles as well as items that carry just sentimental value. People get emotionally attached to items that symbolize lost loved ones. It is also quite possible that you've been instructed to sell these items and distribute the proceeds to the heirs, which may cause further conflict.

If you are caught in the middle of an estate-related dispute, you need a knowledgeable adviser who can protect your rights in and out of court. An estate planning attorney can provide you with a third-party perspective and valuable counsel. An attorney can help clear up misunderstandings, distribute assets appropriately and ease the burden on you.

The Voelker Litigation Group (VLG) represents any party in trust and estate litigation. Our Chicago trial lawyers have extensive experience in Illinois probate courts as well as federal court litigation. We have represented trustees, estates, individual beneficiaries, excluded heirs or appointed representatives in complex, sensitive and often high-stakes disputes.

VLG handles all types of litigation, including:

  • Will contests (fraud, undue influence, senility, etc.)
  • Intestate litigation (when a person dies without a will)
  • Valuation disputes (real estate, businesses, valuables, etc.)
  • Missing or misappropriated assets
  • Allegations of breach of fiduciary duty by executors and trustees

Daniel J. Voelker has practiced law for 29 years and has been a certified public accountant for 30 years. He is among the few estate litigators who are both lawyers and CPAs, and that background is a distinct advantage to clients dealing with the financial issues of complex trusts or multimillion-dollar estates. We extend a free consultation and our attorneys can even arrange house calls.

To discuss your legal situation or learn more about our abilities, please contact our Chicago law firm at 312-448-8457 or check out our website at


Answered 04/24/2014

Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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