Top Four Traits for Your Fiduciary Litigator

Is your family fighting over who should or should not get dearly departed Dad’s property? Are you fairly certain a trustee is lining his own pockets, rather than aiding the beneficiaries? Did a caretaker unduly influence your ailing mother so he inherited the vast estate? Then you need to talk with a fiduciary litigator: You need someone on your side that can walk you through the legal and emotional challenges of fiduciary litigation. You need someone that possesses these traits:

1.       Communication Skills. 

Litigation is stressful. Litigation involving other family members or family money is especially stressful. If you find an attorney that primarily works with corporate clients, he may lack the ability to communicate with you about the many steps involved with litigation, having become too comfortable with a standard business cost-benefit analysis of litigation. For example, if litigation is unfamiliar to you, you will need to hear the same advice repeatedly, so you need someone to communicate clearly – and patiently.


2.       Empathy.

Venting is an important part of the grief process, as well as the litigation process, as can be ranting, crying, or beating your head against the wall in frustration. If you find your attorney only wants to discuss the law, then you need a different attorney. The law is applied to the facts, and to know the facts, the attorney must know you. And to know you is to listen to you and empathize.   Fiduciary litigation creates more than an attorney-client relationship; it bonds you together, so choose someone with whom you connect.



3.       Strong Legal Team.

Certainly you want your fiduciary litigator to know the law, but the universe of law encompassing fiduciary litigation can be large. There may be good solo practitioners out there that handle fiduciary litigation, but more often than not there can be complex real estate, tax, or other legal issues intertwined with the trust or estate dispute that requires the fiduciary litigator to reach out to those who specialize in those areas. The best solution is to locate a fiduciary litigator that has a firm with other attorneys that can collectively provide their expertise for such situations. This is particularly true when the vast majority of cases settle short of conventional trial, so the involvement of tax law specialists on complicated settlements is often needed.


4.        Confidence.

To effectively persuade a judge or jury, one needs to be confident. But there is indeed a fine line between being a confident attorney and a/an [insert your favorite expletive here]. Sadly, those that gleefully leap over that line are what give trial attorneys a bad name. But the confidence of which I speak is not limited to the courtroom. A good fiduciary litigator needs to have the confidence to be able to tell her client the weaknesses or risks with the case, as well as the potential for recovery. It takes confidence to be honest with the client.


This is a short checklist, but it covers the important points. Simply put, spend some time to interview your fiduciary litigator, because you do not want to settle for the least expensive attorney or the one that you heard was a “bulldog.” You want one that meets your needs and makes a real and personal connection with you. Such attorneys do exist.