Dispute Resolution, Experienced Litigation
Disputes that arise in the wake of a loved one’s death often come with high stakes, emotionally and financially. As a law firm focused on providing “Counsel of Good Value,” our duty is to help our clients see past their emotions and reach the most efficient, satisfactory resolution possible. Sometimes this requires tough litigation. Sometimes it only takes communication.
At Ziegler Metzger LLP, we have provided efficient, diligent and experienced legal services to clients since 1952. We are one of Cleveland’s leading estate administration, litigation and dispute resolution law firms. From our offices in Cleveland and Painesville, we handle complex probate litigation throughout Ohio.
We handle probate litigation of all kinds, but the conflicts that arise most often tend to fall into one of the following categories:
- Will contests: These cases often result from undue influence over the deceased by another in order to obtain an unfair share of the estate; a family member taking advantage of the lack of capacity of the deceased to create or modify a will; or instances of fraud and elder abuse.
- Disputes over the terms of will documents: Even when a will is deemed perfectly valid, disputes can arise regarding the meaning of the will. Our lawyers have decades of experience interpreting will documents according to probate laws and resolving disputes of this kind.
- Contested guardianships: When guardianship of a child or disabled adult is in question, the court gets involved. If two parties both want guardianship rights, we can represent either side. Often our attorneys will step in to serve as a guardian ad litem while the litigation is pending, or while the court works to identify a suitable guardian.
- Estate and trust administration disputes: These cases often involve the mishandling of an estate or trust by the executor or trustee. A lack or failure of communication is a common theme. Our attorneys counsel clients regularly about their rights as beneficiaries, time limits in estate and trust disputes and the duties and responsibilities of serving as an executor or trustee.
- Misappropriation of funds and fiduciary malfeasance: Executors and trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to faithfully manage the assets of a trust or estate for the good of the beneficiaries. Failure to do so is a breach of fiduciary duty. Other fiduciary relationships include agents who act under a power of attorney and abuses of that power relating to bank accounts and other financial instruments. Our attorneys have handled cases involving the removal and replacement of fiduciaries. We conduct investigations into allegations that a fiduciary, executor or trustee has misappropriated the funds of an estate that he or she was appointed to protect. Our lawyers also accept court appointments to take over the position of executor either for the rest of the estate administration or until another suitable executor is found.
- Elder abuse: The elderly may be the objects of wrongdoing by family members and other individuals. Misappropriating funds with a power of attorney, improper changing of bank account registrations and beneficiary designations are all-too-common types of abuse. Our attorneys have investigated and filed claims in cases involving fraud and dishonesty against the elderly.
- Private settlement agreements: Our attorneys have handled family disputes of all kinds. In many instances, the primary goal is the avoidance of costly and time-consuming litigation. Our firm has been successful in mediating and counseling emotionally charged family situations and in negotiating and preparing private settlement agreements.
Our Litigation Philosophy
Not all legal conflicts need to be resolved through contentious, adversarial litigation. Lawsuits are useful, but they are not the solution to every problem. Through our decades of experience, we have observed that many legal conflicts are the result of simple miscommunications. If emotions stay in check, attorneys can usually resolve the conflict by helping the two parties understand each other’s position and come to a solution that benefits them both. This approach is at the heart of our commitment to provide Counsel of Good Value, a philosophy that has guided our firm since 1952.
Minimizing conflict saves time and money. In probate litigation, it can often save relationships between family members in conflict. Be assured, however, that we are experienced litigators and are prepared to provide aggressive, intelligent representation any time litigation is necessary. We have built up a remarkable track record of representative cases in probate litigation. Our fees for probate and trust litigation matters are typically handled on an hourly basis, but we can have flexible fee arrangements as well, including contingency fees in certain cases.