Five Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Trust and Probate Litigation Attorney

Bring this list to your first meeting with a potential attorney or have it by your side during an initial phone consultation.

It can be difficult to know what matters most when hiring a trust and probate litigation attorney.  Here are five key questions that you should ask before hiring someone to represent you:

  1. Do you limit your practice exclusively to trust and probate litigation? And are you a LITIGATION attorney (as opposed to a PLANNING attorney)?  Many attorneys advertise a laundry list of practice areas.  Trust and probate litigation is an extremely specific niche area of law.  Simply put, there is a lot to know and the landscape is changing all the time.  Chances are, an attorney who holds himself out as handling “divorce, personal injury, DUIs, and estate planning” is not going to be as well versed as he should be to expertly handle your case.  Also, there is a significant difference between an ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY and a TRUST AND PROBATE LITIGATION ATTORNEY.  Planners draft wills and trusts for clients.  Many estate planning attorneys never enter a courtroom or engage in litigation.  When your case is in the phase of possible litigation, you need a litigator, not a planner.
  2. Are you certified by the state of California as a Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate?  With fewer than one thousand of the tens of thousands of licensed attorneys in California certified as specialists, chances are few attorneys can answer “yes” to this question.  In order to be certified by the state, these elite-level attorneys demonstrate years of experience handling specific cases in the area of estate planning, trusts, and probate, as well as pass a day-long exam.
  3. How many court cases have you taken to trial during your career?  Many trust and probate litigation cases are able to be negotiated to a settlement before trial, but you want to know that if your case doesn’t, your attorney has the experience he needs.  Putting together a case and taking it to trial is a complex, time-consuming process.  The skill to litigate before a judge and jury is developed over years and cannot simply be taught in a classroom.  Make sure your attorney is comfortable litigating if that is what your case requires.
  4. What advanced degrees or continuing education have you undertaken in order to remain current in your area of law?  Great attorneys recognize that they are never done learning.  They attend many hours worth of continuing education, even pursuing advanced degrees in related areas of law such as income taxation.  Make sure your attorney goes above and beyond the minimum requirements in order to stay abreast of changes and developments in the law.
  5. What publications do you have that I  can review so I can learn more about your knowledge and legal philosophy?  Ask a potential attorney to provide you with sources of articles, books, or other publications he has authored so you can see first-hand what his “take” on the law is.
Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307