Even in the closest family relationships, it’s healthy to maintain some boundaries. Unfortunately, we often see those boundaries trampled when disputes arise among family members over finances—trusts in particular. Money may not be the root of all evil, but it certainly has a way of disrupting family dynamics and making otherwise reasonable people behave out of character.
When that occurs—and certainly, whenever family disputes reach the point of active or threatened litigation—skilled legal counsel can help establish healthier boundaries.
Smith Legacy Law did just that in a long-running family trust dispute in which a trust beneficiary used duplicative lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions to improperly investigate our client’s business and financial dealings. The beneficiary claimed that the trustees, former trustees, business partners, and successor trustees had colluded to improperly deprive the beneficiary.
In one proceeding, a challenge to the accounting of a trust, the beneficiary sought voluminous discovery, including access to all the grantor’s financial affairs, including business dealings, real estate holdings and related litigation. These materials went far beyond the scope of the proceeding. We stood up to the improper discovery demands for our client and the trial court sided with us, issuing a protective order preventing the disclosure of the improper discovery material. When the beneficiary appealed the order, we won again, convincing the appellate court to uphold the protective order.
When the trust beneficiary violated the protective order by continuing to seek improper discovery, we made sure to enforce our client’s legal boundaries. We filed a motion for a new protective order, as well as financial sanctions against the trust beneficiary and her counsel in light of their frivolous legal conduct. The court granted our motion, issuing a new protective order and sanctions against the trust beneficiary and her counsel, awarding substantial legal fees and costs to our client.