Resolving Family Member Disagreements About Administration of a Trust

Family Members Disagreeing - Playing Tug o War

No matter how much careful thought and professional advice goes into an estate plan, there are times when family members have disagreements after a trust has been set up as part of an estate. Sibling rivalries can surface or re-surface, second marriages and in-law relationships can create complicated family situations, blended families can encounter problems, and even simple greed can lead family members to get into disputes.

Sometimes, the issues can be resolved with passage of time. Other times, however, the disagreements can turn into bitter disputes that take an emotional toll on everyone and threaten to destroy a family. Finding a resolution can be very challenging. In some cases, resorting to trust litigation is the only solution. One central question in these situations is: What types of issues can be resolved by a court through trust administration litigation?

Trust Litigation in Minnesota

In Minnesota, as in most other states, trusts and trust fund administration are subject to complex state statutory provisions. The laws govern trustee fiduciary responsibilities and conduct, trustee liability, beneficiary rights, and probate court jurisdiction over trust funds.

The statutes provide a number of different reasons to challenge the manner in which a trust is administered. But they also limit the circumstances in which administration can be challenged and who can assert a challenge in court. Only an experienced trust litigation attorney can provide advice on whether circumstances in a particular case warrant bringing a lawsuit to resolve family member disagreements.

There are some basic circumstances in trust administration that can be litigated in Minnesota probate court, including:

  • Trustee misconduct, such as self-dealing, improper investment of assets, failure to follow instructions in the trust, and fraud
  • Disagreements between or among co-trustees about trust administration
  • Disputes between beneficiaries, including those arising between income beneficiaries and asset/remainder beneficiaries
  • Issues of competence or undue influence in creation or administration of the trust
  • Disagreements over interpretation of the provisions in the trust instrument
  • Enforcement of a trustee’s responsibilities, including the duty to provide an accounting

The remedies available through trust litigation vary, depending on the situation. Under specific circumstances, the probate court can order trustee removal. In other situations, the court may order the trustee to perform certain duties in a specific manner. If interpretation of trust provisions is an issue, the probate court can determine the meaning of those provisions.

When to Talk With a Minnesota Probate Litigation Attorney

Family disagreements about trust administration can be highly emotional and take a toll on everyone who is involved. Sometimes, the longer they go on, the worse the situation gets. Especially if the disagreement seems to be escalating, it may be advisable to get an outside professional, legal opinion.

An experienced probate litigation attorney can conduct an objective analysis of the circumstances and give you advice about whether litigation is a viable course to pursue. Having an informed legal opinion can help you identify your goals, ascertain the causes for the dispute, and decide whether the potential outcome of litigation is worth the financial and emotional cost.

At the Dave Burns Law Office, a focus of my practice is trust disputes and litigation, including all types of issues over trust administration. I work with family members, beneficiaries of estates, and trustees.

If you have a contested trust administration issue that may require litigation, I welcome you to contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by emailing I work with clients throughout the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Categories: Litigation, Probate

The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer