Will my trust attorney defend me in court?

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It depends. During the initial consultation, the lawyer can determine the scope of services and inform the client about which services are within her scope of practice. With the client’s informed consent, the lawyer may impose reasonable limitations on the scope of representation. For example, a trustee’s representation in a post-death trust administration may not include the preparation of fiduciary income tax returns.

As part of the initial engagement, a lawyer with a trust administration practice may advise the client that if there is a formal dispute between the trustee and a beneficiary, the lawyer will not handle the trust-related litigation or, alternatively, advise the client that the attorney may need to associate with an attorney with more litigation experience.

While the amount of work of certain trust and estate services can be gauged relatively well from the outset, the work and time commitment required for litigation does not lend itself to a flat fee arrangement. Therefore, many law firms will exclude litigation from the initial scope of representation for routine transactional services.

Reference:

Shaver, TW (2020). Guide to the California rules of professional conduct for estate planning, trust and probate counsel. [San Francisco, CA], California Lawyer’s Association, Trusts and Estates Section. Chapter 3 Competence and Diligence

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