Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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I am sorry to hear of this situation, as I am sure it is very distressing for you.
Generally, the trust document will control how any distributions will be made. That being said, usually the heirs will try and respect the intents of the decedent, out of respect. However, that is a moral obligation; not a legal obligation. From a legal perspective, whatever the trust/will states is the controlling factor.
Since this is presumably a family business, the trust in all likelihood specifies who should inherit what percentage of the business. If your brother arbitrarily feels that he is entitled to 51% of the business, but the trust does not specify this distribution, he really does not have a legal basis for this assertion.
The type of attorney that would deal with this would be an estate planning attorney, preferably one experienced in litigation, in case this goes to court.
Given the value of the business, it would be advisable to meet with an attorney at your earliest opportunity.
Whenever you hire an attorney, it is always a wise decision to ensure that they are in good standing with the bar association (i.e. no disciplinarian action). Please see: http://www.scbar.org/PublicServices/FindaLawyer.aspx
As for any verbal assurances made by your parents regarding their intended bequests; these are not of legal effect. The trust document (or will) would control how their property is to be distributed.
Since the trust stated that the business is to be divided 50/50, that would be the controlling fact. Your brother probably wants to have the extra percent interest so that his say in the business would be the majority rule; however, the trust will dictate the division of the business.
You are welcome. I hope you are able to resolve this with your brother without court intervention. You may want to consider mediation (a voluntary process), as that tends to be an effective way to debate/resolve legal issues while preserving family relations (as opposed to the court process).
You can see from their bar profile how many years experience they have. But you can also check out www.avvo.com as this website has reviews of attorneys. Also www.lawyers.com. And you can always ask the attorney, as they cannot misrepresent their experience because that would be a violation of the professional rules of conduct.
I am prohibited from giving specific referrals, but you can google "mediators", or "alternative dispute resolution" with your city and South Carolina, and locate a mediator if you would prefer that avenue.
Thank you kindly for that offer - but we aren't allowed to gain business based on our interactions here. I wish I could take you up on the sweet tea offer, as when I was in Georgia, I was able to have a few gallons and it was amazing!
Thanks! Take care, and enjoy the rest of the holiday.
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