What you should know about estate litigation

About once a week I get a call from a prospective client who wants to contest a will or trust, but we only take one about every six months or so. Why is this? While I know that there are a lot of reasons you might feel that a will or trust is unfair, there are only a few reasons a will or trust is legally invalid.

The most common reasons for a will or trust to be invalid are: lack of capacity and undue influence. Both of these require that you have specific evidence, which can be hard to come by. We see a lot of cases where something just doesn’t look right, but we cant prove it.

The other is that the up side needs to be there. You need to know what you stand to gain by winning. Are there prior wills which would control if the currant one is held to be invalid? If you don’t know what you will gain it is almost impossible to make an intelligent choice about weather or not to proceed with a contest.

Finally, you need to understand the cost of a contest. If you pay by the hour you can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and litigation cost. If you cannot or don’t want to pay up front you can expect to pay between 30%-50% on a contingency fee contract.

If you want to contest a will or trust please think about why you want to contest it, what evidence might be out there, try to see if you can find out what other wills or trust they might have executed in the past, and lastly please understand that estate litigation is very expensive.

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