When a loved one passes away and a dispute arises over the administration of his or her estate or trust, the parties may attempt to resolve their differences without having to go to court. Unfortunately, this is not successful in every case. Some disputes may ultimately lead to a full-blown legal trial. When this happens, the parties involved can expect a specific order of events to occur. This is before a judge or jury ultimately reaches a decision of the case.
What can you expect if you’re about to begin the process of a trust or estate litigation trial? The following is an overview:
Steps in a Trust or Estate Litigation Trial
The trial begins with opening statements from each party. During the opening statements, the two sides in the trial each present an overview of their respective cases.
The petitioner, or the person pursuing the claim, calls his or her first witness for direct examination. During direct examination, the petitioner’s attorney asks questions from the witness. The intent of these questions is to draw out relevant facts that support the petitioner’s claims. The petitioner may call several different witnesses to the stand as part of this process.
The respondent, or the person defending against the claim, then has an opportunity to conduct a cross examination of the witnesses. During this process, the respondent’s attorney attempts to challenge the testimony of the witness. The respondent’s attorney may also attempt to elicit facts that may have been omitted from the witness’s version of events that support the defendant’s claims.
Once all witnesses have been called and evidence presented, the petitioner rests its case. The respondent is then able to present its defense.
If the judge presiding over the case finds that he or she can reach a decision without hearing from the respondent because the petitioner has not met its burden of proof, the judge can issue a decision at that point.
The respondent is able to call their own witnesses, who are also subject to cross examination by the petitioner.
After the respondent has rested his or her case, both parties present closing arguments. These statements are designed to persuade the judge or jury as to the party’s arguments. They typically include a comprehensive presentation of the party’s side of the story.
Once closing statements have been made, the judge then has 90 days in which to make a decision.
If you are involved in a lawsuit over a trust or estate matter and the judge issues a decision that is not in your favor, you may still be able to appeal that decision. The trust or estate litigation process requires guidance from an experienced and knowledgeable professional. This ensures that you are taking the proper steps during an overwhelming time period. We are here to help. We encourage you to learn more about how we have helped previous clients by viewing our many client testimonials today.