As poet Robert Burns put it, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” When it comes to matters involving trusts and estates, this sentiment applies with alarming frequency. Even with the most careful planning, issues arise in the execution of wills or trusts due to changed circumstances, mistakes in drafting, mistakes in execution, or disagreements of meaning and intent.
Fortunately, Idaho has a specific set of statutes that provide for the resolution of disputes involving trusts and estates. The statutes are codified as the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (“TEDRA”). Idaho Code § 15-8-101 et seq. TEDRA provides two avenues for resolution: (1) non-judicial resolution by agreement; and (2) judicial resolution of contested matters.
Non-judicial resolution is available if all parties agree to a particular resolution. Idaho Code § 15-8-301 et seq. The agreement must be reduced to writing and signed by all parties. The written agreement is then binding and conclusive as to all persons interested in the estate or trust. To comply with TEDRA, the written agreement must identify the subject of dispute and identify the parties. The written agreement, or a memorandum of its terms, may also be filed with the court that has jurisdiction over the estate or trust. Once filed, the agreement is deemed approved by the court and bears the legal equivalence of a court order.
In addition to the benefit of obtaining a binding effect of a final court order, TEDRA’s non-judicial process provides for judicial approval of the agreement. The personal representative of the estate can ask the court to determine whether the interests of the parties have been adequately addressed and protected by their written agreement. If so, an order declaring that determination is entered by the court. If not, the court declares that the written agreement has no effect.
When an impasse is encountered, either through a failed non-judicial resolution or because of an issue contested from the get-go, TEDRA provides for judicial resolution of the dispute. The judicial process requires a party to petition the court through a pleading that describes the issue of dispute, sets forth any applicable law, and asks the court for the desired resolution.
Notably, a petition may be filed independent of or incidental to an existing case related to the same trust or estate. Upon motion of a party, or on its own, the court may consolidate cases related to the same trust or estate. In this way, TERDA provides a procedural avenue to ensure all issues related to a particular estate or trust are resolved in the same proceeding. This increases efficiency and provides certainty and a final resolution to all parties.
If you are facing a dispute regarding an estate or trust, we are here to help you use TEDRA to resolve the matter. We can identify which process is best-suited to your situation and assist you in navigating the non-judicial resolution process, including helping to draft an effective written agreement, or we can draft and file a petition with the court on your behalf.
This blog post is designed to provide general information on pertinent legal topics. The statements made are provided for educational purposes only. This blog does not provide legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Smith + Malek, PLLC. If you want to create an attorney-client relationship and have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your own circumstances, you should contact our office.