Trust Law

Secure Your Legacy, Protect Your Family

Zealous Representation for Administrators and Beneficiaries

The attorneys at Quinn, Racusin & Gazzola Chartered counsel clients in the creation and administration of trusts and estates with the goal in mind of avoiding disputes. However, sometimes disputes become unavoidable. When a trust or estate situation goes awry, QRG attorneys are here for you.

QRG represents trustees and beneficiaries of trusts and estates operating under the laws of Virginia, Maryland, or D.C. If you are a local client seeking advice as to a trust operating under the laws of another jurisdiction, you should seek counsel from a lawyer licensed in that jurisdiction.

Services & Questions related to Trusts

Coming Out Ahead in Trust and Estates Disputes

Trust and estates disputes often manifest out of family disputes. For instance, certain family members might say the trust was changed in a way that adversely affected their interests. They will insist the change was due to pressure placed on the trust creator (typically called a settlor or grantor) to benefit the wrongdoer. In another common scenario, the family will agree that a trust or will was validly created or amended, but the instrument is subject to different interpretations with two sides favoring adverse interpretations.

Like so many of life’s encounters, there are winners and losers in any trust or estate contest, and enlisting the right law firm can help you come out ahead.

Help with Bad Trustees

If your trustee wrongfully refused to make a distribution to you, or take some other action, due to incompetence, laziness, or wrongdoing, you may have legal recourse as a beneficiary.

  • Incompetence or incapacity: Mental incapacities, dementia, or other health problems can prevent the trustee from executing the duties of the role. QRG attorneys can help the beneficiaries replace a trustee who cannot do the job.
  • Laziness: Some people are just not motivated to manage a trust, especially if doing so does not directly benefit them. Too often, the negligent trustee already received the use of their part of the trust property and do not care what happens to the assets now. QRG attorneys can seek a court order forcing the trustee to act, or can ask a judge to remove them from the job if they continue to neglect their responsibilities.
  • Wrongdoing: Driven by financial problems, greed, or selfishness, trustees may help themselves to trust assets. When this happens, beneficiaries must act fast to preserve the trust’s value. In some cases, the trustee may be personally liable for their wrongdoing, but that will not matter if the trustee is insolvent. The best defense against a bad actor trustee is a good offense — stop or reverse the wrongful transfer of assets immediately.

Protecting Good Trustees

Sometimes, through no fault of the trustee, assets are wasted, revenue is not collected, or investment portfolios lose value. For these reasons and many others, trustees are often accused of improper behavior. QRG attorneys are here to defend you and your reputation from attack.


Trusts Basics for DC, Northern Virginia & Maryland

What is a trust?

A trust is a fiduciary relationship where property is transferred to a fiduciary called a trustee. The person who creates a trust by transferring property to the trustee is called the “grantor” or, alternatively, the “settlor.” A fiduciary is a person accorded great trust by the grantor and who, by virtue of that relationship, owes the grantor duties prescribed by law.

What is the difference between a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust?

A revocable trust is a written agreement that places your assets into the hands of a trustee who holds it for your benefit during your lifetime, and transfer of those assets to a specified individual or individuals upon your death. The Grantor retains the right to amend or revoke the Trust during the Grantor’s lifetime. 

Irrevocable trust are different in one fundamental respect: the person who creates the trust relinquishes control over the property placed in trust. These are created for a variety of reasons and include special needs trusts, asset protection trusts, family legacy trusts, and Medicaid planning trusts. The point is that when an asset is transferred to an irrevocable trust, it can no longer be legally called your asset, even if you continue to derive some benefit from it. How irrevocable trusts are managed is a question of state law with countless variations (even amongst D.C., Virginia and Maryland). One should not attempt to create an irrevocable trusts without counsel. You might not get the protection that you sought from the trust, with potentially disastrous results.

Why would anyone use a revocable trust if it still counts as your property?

Some of the most attractive benefits of trusts is that they do not require probate, provide for successive management of assets through the nomination of successor Trustees, and provide for management of the assets if the Grantor becomes incapacitated. Typically, a Will must be administered through the probate process, which can be costly, time-consuming, and public. As a result, the administration of a trust following a decedent’s death can allow for a more streamlined distribution of the assets contained therein without need for Court intervention. In many situations, the secondary beneficiaries become primary beneficiaries immediately upon the passing of the grantor.

Does creating a revocable trust automatically avoid probate?

No. You must fund the trust by transferring the assets to the Trustee. Only assets titled in the revocable trust at the decedent’s death avoid probate. Thus, any asset titled in the decedent’s name will still require probate.

What is a pet trust?

D.C., Maryland, and Virginia each have a specific trust vehicle to provide for the care of a pet or pets that survive their owner. Creating a pet trust is an expensive and complicated process that may not be the best fit for most pet owners. However, it is the only truly legally binding way to make sure your pet is cared for in accord with your wishes because it is the only vehicle that appoints a second agent (the “trust protector”) to do what an animal cannot: enforce the terms of the trust in a court of law. You will need counsel to set up a pet trust.

What happens if the terms of a trust are disputed?

Trusts are governed by state law. The rules and procedures regarding the types of disputes that may be brought and the individuals who have standing to bring a dispute vary among jurisdictions. A person who has standing is usually called an “interested person”, but that does not simply mean someone who is interested in the outcome. Rather, an interested person would experience harm if the trust terms were enforced as written. By way of example, a disinherited child of the settlor would typically be an interested person and would have legal standing to challenge the trust, but might still lose the case. Standing only gets you in the courtroom doors.

Can a trust be set up incorrectly?

Yes. Moreover, a trust can be challenged on a technical basis. Each state has specific rules that must be adhered to when executing a trust. For example, state law might require notarized signatures of the settlor and witnesses.

How else can a trust be challenged?

Like any testamentary document, fraud, coercion, or undue influence in the creation of the trust can render it ineffective in the eyes of the law. Additionally, a trust cannot be created for illegal purposes, such as money laundering.

Can a trust benefit charity?

A trustee can be directed to make a contribution to a charity upon your passing. The trust documents can contain language that directs the trustee to provide a specific monetary amount or percentage of the value of the trust’s assets to a charity after your death or upon the dissolution of the trust. The specific charity or charities can also be identified.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Law Firm Serving DC, Northern Virginia & Maryland That You Can Trust

The estate planning attorneys at Quinn, Racusin & Gazzola Chartered are here to help whether you are just beginning to consider estate planning or need to update an existing plan for DC, Virginia or Maryland.