The primary benefit of estate planning – and a will in particular, especially a living will – is the peace of mind that comes with knowing your wishes will be honored and carried according to your stated instructions. You can usually be confident that your loved ones will be taken care of and your heirs will receive what they are supposed to get.
But, while a living will may seem to be watertight, it’s not that difficult for disgruntled family members and heirs who feel slighted to contest your will. In such a case, it may go to court and, in the process, eat up a lot of your assets. And because the whole litigation process is so lengthy, complex, and legally convoluted, you absolutely must have an attorney with experience in will litigation
Wills can be contested for various reasons and on several grounds, including:
These things can and do happen, and it takes an experienced litigation attorney to competently handle all phases of the litigation process.
The chief reason that experience counts (immensely) in will litigation is that the process involves diverse legal tasks. This complex legal process – as well as a successful outcome – calls for an attorney with plenty of experience and demonstrated expertise. Following is just some of what you and your attorney may be facing in litigation.
Investigation and Assessment – The first step for litigation attorneys is to conduct an initial case investigation to determine: 1) if there is enough evidence to file a suit on the plaintiff’s side or 2) in the case of a defendant, to look into the evidence to defend. This phase also includes locating involved parties and taking statements, assembling pertinent documents, and interviewing the client, as well as looking at ways to arrive at pre-litigation settlement.
Pleadings – The next phase involves filing pleadings and motions, including a summons and complaint to commence the lawsuit, as well as those concerning the allegations and responses and changing the venue.
Discovery – In the discovery phase, pertinent information is exchanged between the parties. To get the needed information, attorneys use discovery devices and strategies such as depositions, interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission.
Pre-trial – After winding up the discovery phase, litigation attorneys then prepare for trial by consulting with clients, retaining expert witnesses, and attending pre-trial conferences. The goal is to use facts and evidence to formulate a trial strategy.
Trial – Although most civil suits are settled before they ever go to trial, some wind up running the full course. Here, attorneys present the case before the judge and continue to work on and refine trial strategies.
Settlement – If the concerned parties can reach a settlement agreement beforehand, the case may not go to trial. Your litigation attorney may be able to and can settle your case at any phase of the litigation process. At this point, opposing parties engage in mediated negotiations to arrive at a mutually agreeable settlement.
And then after all that, there still remains the possibility of an appeal. And the whole thing begins again.
So does experience count in will litigation, even for a living will? You bet. The experienced attorneys at Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia specialize in the areas of living wills, power of attorney, and estate planning and so are equipped to provide the legal assistance you need. Contact us for more information by calling (703) 492-9955 or using our online contact form.