Trusts and Estates Litigation
Hornberger Fuller & Garza, Incorporated has one of the most experienced team of attorneys handling will contests, probate, trust, and estate litigation in the State of Texas. These cases often arise where individuals die after signing wills or trust agreements at a time when their mental capacity may be compromised and the documents represent a significant change from prior estate planning. For example, a father with a second marriage might sign a will late in life that leaves his estate to his wife and cuts out his children from a prior marriage. Or, a mother may be coerced by one adult child to sign a will that leaves more of the estate to that child than the other children. In those types of cases, wills or trusts can be set aside if challenged and proven that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity or was unduly influenced when the documents were signed.
Also, in some cases, one adult child may hold a power of attorney for an elderly parent and may be suspected of using that power of attorney to benefit himself. In those cases, self-dealing transactions completed by the agent under the power of attorney can be rescinded or the agent can be forced to pay damages back to the estate.
Many assets today pass outside of probate under survivorship beneficiary designations, such as bank accounts or brokerage accounts holding stocks and bonds. This means that the owner of the account designates a beneficiary to receive the account upon the owner’s death and the account passes to the beneficiary without going through probate. In some instances, these beneficiary designations may be signed at a time when the account owner had diminished mental capacity or was unduly influenced by the beneficiary. In those cases, the beneficiary designations may be set aside if proven that the account owner lacked legal capacity or was unduly influenced to sign the agreement.
Trust litigation often arises when trustees of trusts, who may be corporate fiduciaries or individuals, are suspected of abusing or improperly using their trustee powers or not fulfilling their fiduciary duties. In these cases, the trustee could be ordered to pay damages to the beneficiaries of the trust.
HF&G has a team of experienced, aggressive attorneys whose practices emphasize will contests, trust and probate/estate litigation such as the types of cases described above. The team is headed by:
Rudy A. Garza – Rudy has practiced law in San Antonio since 1977 and is named as a Texas Super Lawyer in the area of Estate and Trust litigation and a Best Lawyer in America for trust and estate law. Rudy is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law, a certification that requires significant jury trial experience.
Charles M. “Boxy” Hornberger – Boxy is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law and Tax Law and has practiced exclusively in estate planning, tax and trust and estate litigation his entire career, spanning 37 years.
David Jed Williams – Jed has practiced civil litigation for over 30 years with a significant emphasis in will contests, trust and estate litigation and probate. Jed also has significant experience representing corporate trustees in litigation matters, including cases involving oil and gas issues.
In addition to these senior shareholders, HF&G has other shareholders and associates who practice in this area and work in litigation teams with Rudy, Boxy and Jed or handle cases themselves. These attorneys include Christopher Tarrillion, Eduardo Morales, Elizabeth Fry, Stephanie Curette and Cassie Garza Matheson. With eight attorneys who practice in this area, no case is too big or complex for HF&G to handle by assembling a team of experienced and aggressive attorneys to bring or defend will contests, or handle other trust or probate/estate litigation matters either on offense or defense.
HF&G is flexible regarding fee arrangements. Often, persons who may have good claims to challenge wills or trusts lack the resources to pay legal fees. In these cases, HF&G attorneys will consider entering into contingent fee arrangements where the attorneys are paid a percentage of any recovery but are paid no fee unless the client receives an award through a settlement or trial. In other cases, executors or trustees are defending cases and have the resources to pay fees on a hourly basis. HF&G attorneys work on an hourly fee basis as well.
If you are in need of an attorney regarding a possible will contest, trust matter, probate litigation, or any other civil litigation matter, please feel free to contact a HF&G attorney. There is no charge for an initial consultation to determine whether HF&G can assist and enter into an engagement to represent you.