Families are complicated. When a loved one ages or passes, a dispute can ensue, particularly when there is a large estate or family business involved. We represent family members, trustees, and personal representatives in trust and estate litigation. We can help protect your family’s legacy and sort out the legal rights of loved ones. Our particular focus is on family disputes over control or ownership of family businesses, family farms, or family ranches. We also advise trustees and Personal Representatives of estates about compliance with their fiduciary duties and represent such fiduciaries in probate litigation.
The trusts, estates, and probate litigation attorneys at Ogborn Mihm have successfully represented family members or fiduciaries in Colorado, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota and have significant experience in family disputes involving trusts and estates in each of those states.
About Probate Litigation
If a matter involves a trust instrument, an estate or will, or a person’s mental incapacity, then the proceeding will usually be in a probate court. Most probate court matters are routine and uncontested. However, some probate matters are hotly contested. Probate litigation may include will contests, litigation against a trustee, litigation against a beneficiary, or litigation regarding the administration of an estate.
Will contests are a type of probate litigation based on challenges to the validity of a will or attempts to enforce the terms of a will. Each state has its own requirements for what constitutes a valid will and which version of a will controls the disbursement of the estate. Often a will contest results from questions about the validity of a will, or misconduct by a personal representative, such as unequal treatment of beneficiaries. The probate layers at Ogborn Mihm represent individuals involved in will contests, including heirs, those challenging a will, and personal representatives.
A “trust” is an arrangement, often created by a contract, in which someone’s property or money is held for the benefit of another. Trusts are typically managed by a “trustee” with the fiduciary responsibility to act for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Trust disputes occur when there are conflicting interpretations of the trust documents, the trustee is engaging in misconduct, or the trustee and/or beneficiaries are seeking to change or dissolve the trust. Ogborn Mihm’s lawyers advise and represent individuals in a variety of trust disputes, including beneficiaries seeking to hold a trustee responsible for a breach of fiduciary duty, trustees seeking to comply with the law, and interested third parties.
Guardian and Conservatorship Proceedings
A person who cannot manage their personal or financial affairs may need a guardian or a conservator. A guardianship proceeding appoints a fiduciary for such a “ward,” who is required to act in the ward’s best interests. A person vulnerable to exploitation may also require a conservator to manage their property or finances. Many issues regarding the ward or protected person’s best interests, property, and care can arise. Ogborn Mihm’s lawyers represent individuals and family members in sorting through and, if necessary, litigating the thorny issues involved in such cases.
Ogborn Mihm lawyers tried a surcharge action in probate court filed against a trustee accused of looting millions of dollars from several trusts. Our lawyers recovered an $8.7 million judgment, including treble damages for civil theft, and almost $900,000 in attorney fees.
Our lawyers represented the beneficiaries of a trust and successfully challenged changes made to the settlor’s testamentary documents on the grounds that the trustee exercised undue influence over the settlor to exclude their clients from the estate. Using legal, financial, and medical documents, Ogborn Mihm lawyers showed that the trustee was using trust assets for personal purposes.
Ogborn Mihm lawyers led the charge in one of the most high-profile will contests in Colorado history, Breeden v. Stone, a case that went to the Colorado Supreme Court. Our lawyers represented the heir to a handwritten will in a dispute with the deceased’s family.
In a recent will dispute, Ogborn Mihm lawyers represented a Personal Representative who was sued by two beneficiaries that had been removed from a will. Our lawyers worked with opposing counsel to resolve the issue in an attempt to preserve family relationships and reach an amicable end to the dispute.
Ogborn Mihm lawyers represented the children of a deceased individual in a will contest involving three different wills after prior counsel and the family had tried for many months to resolve their differences without success. Through innovative lawyering, our lawyers were able to favorably resolve the dispute for his clients.