Orange Probate Lawyer
Protracted and expensive probate litigation is something that everyone wants to avoid. Sometimes, however, such actions are unavoidable. Perhaps a disputed heir needs to protect his/her legal and financial rights. Or, perhaps the petitioner feels like s/he owes it to the deceased person to serve as a voice for the voiceless. However it gets started, the ultimate goal of probate litigation is to resolve it as quickly and successfully as possible.
The compassionate Orange probate lawyers at The Probate Guy understand these needs. So, whether probate litigation is an early option or a last resort, we use the same approach. We quickly review your case and determine your legal options. Then, when we select a course of action, we build a strong claim brick by brick. Finally, when the case goes to court, we never stop fighting for you.
Grounds for a Will Contest
These matters are the most common form of probate litigation. Disagreement with the will’s provisions doesn’t support a successful will contest. Usually, these matters focus on technical details, such as:
- Incapacity: Testators (people who make wills) must know the full extent of their bounty, which usually means all their heirs and assets. “Incapacity” is a rather vague term in California. People who are in comas are obviously incapacitated and people who forget to turn off the light probably aren’t incapacitated. There is a lot of grey area between these extremes.
- Undue Influence: Outside influence could invalidate a will if the pressure was so extreme the testator lost free will and was under another person’s influence. Typically, it’s rather easy for an Orange probate lawyer to prove one of these two prongs, but it’s very difficult to prove both of them.
- Fraud: Typically, if probate petitioners cannot prove incapacity or undue influence, they may be able to prove fraud. Typically, the fraudster lies about the nature of the document and convinces the testator to sign it. People who sign documents without reading them normally aren’t incapacitated, and lying or cajoling usually doesn’t constitute undue influence. But the two things together could constitute fraud.
These same basic principles apply in other probate litigation matters, such as challenges to a trust or another document.
Resolving Probate Litigation Matters
Most civil matters, including most probate litigation matters, settle out of court. Sometimes, if the other side’s evidence is weak, the other side abandons their claims so as to avoid a harsh outcome in court. Other times, the resolution involves compromise. Perhaps the challenging party obtains control over some disputed assets but not all of them.
So, evidence is key to a successful resolution, either in court or at the negotiating table. Evidence in will contest cases includes doctors’ reports, witness statements, and physical evidence, such as the document itself.
Frequently, Orange County judges refer contested matters to mediation. During mediation, a neutral third party, who is usually an unaffiliated Orange probate lawyer, listens to both sides and tries to engineer a settlement. Both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith. They must earnestly work on settling their differences and be willing to make some compromises.
Contact a Dedicated Orange County Lawyer
Litigation matters are often difficult to resolve. For a free consultation with an experienced Orange probate lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Robert L. Cohen. We routinely handle matters throughout SoCal.