Twin Cities Probate Court Litigation

Attorney Dave Burns devotes a large portion of his practice to litigation in the Minneapolis and St. Paul probate courts. He has over a decade of experience representing parties to probate disputes and has a deep understanding of Minnesota probate law and probate court practices.

By their nature, probate disputes can take an emotional toll on participants. Both legal interests and lifelong relationships may be at stake; and truly effective legal representation takes each into account. Dave believes firmly in beginning any matter with learning the full extent of his clients' goals, in order to help them pursue their legal interests in the context of their personal needs and family relationships. He educates each client about the nature of the proceedings, the client's rights, and the client's legal options. Whether informal negotiation or assertive litigation is called for, Dave stands by his clients' sides and makes their positions heard.

Probate and Estate Disputes

Ideally, probating or administering a Minnesota estate goes smoothly and the wishes of a deceased loved one are clear from his or her last will and testament or other estate planning documents. But if an individual died without a will — or when disputes arise over a loved one's intentions — litigation before the probate court can become necessary.

Dave Burns works with family members, other beneficiaries of an estate, personal representatives, creditors and trustees facing probate and estate disputes. Often, he coordinates litigation with an involved party's existing estate planning attorney or advisor, and he regularly accepts referrals when disputes arise during estate administration.

Matters Dave handles include:

  • Will contests, including claims of undue influence and questions about the deceased's capacity
  • Inheritance disputes regarding family or business assets
  • Trust disputes, including claims against trustees for failure to comply with the terms of a trust or to provide proper accounting
  • Other claims against fiduciaries, including breach of fiduciary duties and removal of a fiduciary

Guardianships and Conservatorships

Guardianships and conservatorships are created if an individual does not have the capacity to fully care for him- or herself or for his or her financial affairs. Adults may be in need of guardianships or conservatorships because of cognitive difficulties caused by Alzheimer's disease, developmental disabilities, brain injury / stroke, or dementia.

Guardianship involves appointment of a guardian to care for someone's general welfare, including food, housing, medical and social needs.

Conservatorship involves appointment of a conservator to manage someone's financial affairs or estate. A conservator makes sure that the person's bills are paid, and often manages bank accounts, investments and real estate to ensure the person's ongoing needs will be met.

Guardians and conservators may be family members or professionals appointed by the court. The establishment of a guardianship or conservatorship — and the appointment of a particular guardian or conservator — may go smoothly and without disagreement. But disputes may also arise regarding establishment, appointment, or the behavior of an existing guardian or conservator.

As a member of the Minnesota Association for Guardianship and Conservatorship (MAGiC) and the Hennepin and Ramsey County Guardianship and Conservatorship Panel, Dave Burns has years of experience with the law and procedure governing these areas. He represents all parties to guardianship and conservatorship matters, including contested and uncontested petitions for guardianship or conservatorship and claims of malfeasance or breach of fiduciary duty by conservators and guardians. Most importantly, Dave recognizes the difficulties that families and individuals with cognitive deficits may face when the potential need for care or financial assistance is raised or leads to disputes. He is committed to being a strong and capable advocate for his clients' rights and interests, while treating this area of law with the sensitivity that each participant deserves.

Civil Commitment

A family member or other petitioner, supported by an appropriate medical practitioner or psychologist, may seek civil commitment of a person who is in danger of injuring him- or herself or others due to mental illness, chemical dependency, or a developmental disability. Civil commitment in Minnesota is governed by carefully drafted state law intended to allow for involuntary treatment and/or confinement of such a person while protecting the rights and liberty of those who may be subjects of the commitment process.

Before a petition for civil commitment can be formally filed, a pre-petition screening is required, during which a multidisciplinary team investigates the proposed patient's circumstances to evaluate whether the criteria for commitment may be met. If the petition is supported by the pre-petition screening team, one or more hearings are held by the probate court to determine whether the person may be held pending a final decision, to review the findings of medical examiners, and to determine what treatment or commitment is appropriate.

The civil commitment process is necessarily complex — and is often an emotionally difficult time for everyone involved. Dave Burns is a Member of the Commitment Defense Project where he regularly tries cases on behalf of people with mental illness in probate court. Dave recognizes both the legal complexities and emotional toll of these cases; and he is deeply aware of the rights and relationships that are at stake. He works with families or individuals who are the subjects of civil commitment petitions to understand the screening process, the probate court procedures, as well as the options and evidence required to support or defend a petition.

Contact Minneapolis / St. Paul Probate Attorney Dave Burns

If you or a client is facing probate court litigation, we welcome you to contact Dave Burns for a consultation by calling (612) 677-8351 or emailing dave@daveburnslaw.com. Dave works with clients throughout the Twin Cities metro and is available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.