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Category: Probate Estate Litigation & Administration

Original Wills, Duplicate Wills

When requesting that a last will and testament be probated, the original will must be presented to the Court. The reason for this is that under Missouri law “a will is presumed destroyed by the testator [i.e., will-maker] with intent to revoke if the will was last seen in possession of the testator prior to […]

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Will Contests: Grounds, Necessary Parties

A last will and testament may be contested on numerous grounds, the most common of which include challenges for lack of capacity, fraud, duress, and/or undue influence. There are strict, specific deadlines for challenging a will. While the deadline varies, a will contest is usually pursued after a will is admitted to probate. An order […]

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Declaratory Judgment to Challenge Revocable Living Trusts

The use of revocable living trusts in estate planning is extremely common. Along with the rise of their use, challenges to the validity of revocable living trusts have also risen. Trusts may be contested on a number of grounds, the most common of which are lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud or duress. These claims […]

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Virtual Representation, Trust Disputes, Beneficiaries

Many types of trust litigation claims, including most breach of trust claims (e.g., breach of fiduciary duty) against a trustee and trust contests, require that all qualified beneficiaries to the trust be joined as parties. The reasoning is that if the Court is adjudicating a trust in which someone has an interest in, that person […]

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Special Fiduciary, Trust Litigation, Breach of Trust

In breach of trust litigation, the plaintiff can request a variety of remedies against the trustee. The remedies include, among other things, damages, removal and/or suspension. In more contentious situations, a probate court does have the authority to appoint a “special fiduciary” to administer the trust, in whole or in part, while the suit is […]

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Will Contest, Multiple Wills, Res Judicata

If a will contest is successful, then the legal effect is that the will is invalid and void. Section 473.083.7 (A will contest determines “intestacy or testacy or which writing or writings constitute the decedent’s will.”). Accordingly, assuming there is no prior will, the Court finds that the person died intestate/without a will in the […]

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Medical Testimony, Experts

Depending on the nature of the case (e.g., medical malpractice, trust/will challenges for lack of capacity or undue influence, etc.), medical testimony is often crucial. The qualification of a physician as an expert is generally within the trial court’s substantial discretion. Ponciroli v. Wyrick, 573 S.W.2d 731, 735 (Mo.Ct.App.1978). Generally, a practicing physician, even when […]

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Joint Ownership, Probate, Non-Probate Transfer

Typically, only assets that a deceased individual solely owns without a beneficiary designation must pass through probate. Because of this, trusts are often implemented to circumvent probate. Other than trusts, co-ownership arrangements or non-probate transfers are frequently utilized to avoid probate. A non-probate transfer (e.g., transfer on death, payable on death) operates to where the […]

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Voidable Transactions, Trustee Conflicts of Interests, Duty of Loyalty

A trustee owes a fiduciary duty to a beneficiary. Therefore, a trustee is generally not permitted to enter into any transaction that is a conflict between the trustee’s personal interests and fiduciary responsibilities, unless (1) the transaction was authorized by the trust, (2) approved by the Court, (3) consented to or ratified by the beneficiaries, […]

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Transfer in Fraud of Marital Rights, Disability/Minors

To prevail on a transfer in fraud of marital rights claim, a plaintiff/surviving spouse needs to show that the deceased spouse “gave away his [or her] property without consideration with the intent and purpose of defeating…marital rights.” Nelson v. Nelson, 512 S.W.2d 455, 459 (Mo. Ct. App. 1974). Section 474.150.2, RSMo states that there is […]

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