Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on August 27th, 2016

Know What You’re Getting Into: The Timeline Of A Trust And Estate Lawsuit

After a loved one passes away, administering their estate is not always easy. In some cases, disputes can arise among the parties. These disputes may ultimately lead to a litigation matter.

Stages of the Trust and Estate Litigation Process

If you are involved in a trust or estate dispute that is heading toward litigation, you can expect the following to occur as part of the process:

  • Investigation and research. During the first stage of a trust or estate litigation matter, your attorney will thoroughly investigate your claim’s facts. Your legal team will also research to determine the law applicable to your case. Your attorney will likely call upon you to provide valuable information as part of this process.
  • Pleading. The lawsuit commences when the plaintiff or petitioner files the complaint or petition stating the claims against the defendant. During the pleading stage, the parties to the suit formally say their claims and defenses. Each claim is a separate cause of action. Examples of a cause of action include fraud, undue influence, and breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Discovery. Discovery is the stage at which each party discloses its evidence to the other party. This process stage will give you a better sense of your likelihood of success in the case because it also reveals the strengths and weaknesses in your opponent’s arguments. Discovery may consist of interrogatories, requests for admission, and document requests.
  • Mediation. Mediation is the most common form of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation is essential to the trust and estate litigation process because it attempts to settle the dispute before going to trial. In many cases, the presiding court will order the parties to try mediation before trial. The mediator may be a local attorney trained explicitly in mediation or a professional mediator.
  • Expert witness depositions. As part of the discovery process, your attorney may seek expert witness testimony to support your claim. This type of witness provides an opinion relating to the subject at hand beyond that of the average person and assists the judge or jury in reaching a decision. Unlike the period for the discovery process, which ends 30 days before trial, the expert discovery cut-off lasts until 15 days before trial.
  • Trial preparation. If mediation is unsuccessful and trial is looming, the next step in the process is to organize the information and evidence obtained during discovery. The goal is to create a logical and compelling narrative to support your claims. Your attorney must identify all of the witnesses and documents that will be used at trial. That may include a need to issue subpoenas to compel certain witnesses to appear. Your legal team will also organize the medical and financial records, discovery responses, and deposition transcripts used in court.
  • Trial. Claims that do not settle ultimately lead to difficulty. During this stage, your attorney will present your case to the judge or jury. This process could take anywhere from days to months. In some cases, the trial will not occur over consecutive days and will be spread out over many weeks. After each side has presented its case, the judge has 90 days to issue a decision.
  • Appeal. If you find yourself on the losing end of a trial, all hope is not lost. You may still appeal your case in most situations. The right to appeal is subject to strict time limitations, so the party must consider bringing the appeal to act quickly after the initial findings of the trial court judge are issued. The California Probate Code outlines the specific situations in which a trust or estate matter can be appealed.

While this process may seem overwhelming, the good news is that you do not have to go it alone. We are here to help, just as we have helped countless other clients protect their rights through a trust or estate lawsuit. We encourage you to check out our many client testimonials for more information.

Related Links

The Grossman Law Firm, APC (951) 523-8307