by: Meagan Durigan, Esq.

Fiduciary Litigation Session

So maybe this is only something that lawyers who love estate work (like us!), find exciting! But in November of 2017, a pilot program was established in the Norfolk Probate and Family Court, which created a fiduciary litigation session (“FLS”) to assist in probate matters. The goal of the FLS is to provide “a specialized forum for the speedy resolution of contested and complex probate litigation cases and to provide individualized and collaborative case management to reduce the costs associated with fiduciary litigation.” Standing Order 3-17

Specifically, the FLS handles contested matters, including contested wills, trust accounts, contests over who should be trustee or personal representative, invested trust cases, removal of fiduciaries, equity complaints, etc. The rules for the FLS are set forth in Standing Order 3-17.

Part of the reason the FLS was created is because most Probate and Family Court judges have much more experience in family law than probate law. The Honorable Elaine Moriarty, who has expertise in the complexities of probate law, was recalled out of retirement to preside over the FLS. She previously served as a justice of the Suffolk Probate and Family Court. Judge Moriarty has a wealth of experience, and the new session allows these cases to be heard with the proper attention, without the slowdown of the overburdened regular court sessions.

To get a case into the FLS, a case must first be filed in the court of proper venue. Cases do not originate in the FLS. After the case is filed, counsel or a self-represented party must file a request for reassignment (Form MPC 304) in the division where the matter is pending. From there, the judge decides whether the case should be reassigned to the FLS. If the judge denies the request, the issue is resolved.

Judges can also reassign cases to the FLS on their own accord. Counsel or a self-represented party has the right to oppose the reassignment, but the judge can reject the opposition. Not many attorneys oppose reassignment because the session can provide many benefits. Aside from gaining the expertise of Judge Moriarty, the FLS has the resources to devote more time to each case. In addition, scheduling conferences take place within thirty days of reassignment to facilitate settlement. The FLS also has the ability of handling some matters through video or telephonic conferencing. Finally, session times in the FLS are staggered, eliminating the hassle of waiting in court all day for a matter to be called.

The FLS was originally only open to Norfolk, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties, but in February of 2018, the FLS began accepting reassignments from Essex and Plymouth counties as well. Recently, the Probate and Family Court announced an upcoming second session of the FLS and the opening of the session to the entire Commonwealth!

If you’re dealing with a complex probate litigation case, the FLS might be a great option for you. Give us a call and we’ll get you started!

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