Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on August 28th, 2016

Four Aspects Of The Initial Stage Of Trust Litigation



When a loved one dies, the last place that you hope to end up is in a courtroom battling over their estate. Unfortunately, issues do arise during trust or probate administrations that can result in lawsuits. If you have never experienced the litigation process before you may be confused as to what to expect. The process occurs in various stages.

How a Lawsuit Involving a Trust in California Gets Started

Lawsuits involving trusts and wills are typically filed in probate court. The first step in the process is known as the pleading stage. During the pleading stage, the following will occur:

  1. The lawsuit is formally initiated when the plaintiff files a petition stating his claims against the objector or respondent. If the case involves a probate matter, the plaintiff is referred to as the petitioner.
  2. The claims made against the objector or respondent are known as causes of action. For example, the plaintiff or petitioner may make a claim for fraud on the part of the trustee, or undue influence when the decedent signed his or her will.
  3. Once the petition is filed, the objector or respondent then files either an objection or a response. If he files an objection, he is thereafter known as the objector. If he files a response, he is known as the respondent.
  4. The pleading stage concludes with the prayer that is stated at the end of the petition. The prayer is a statement of monetary or other damages that the petitioner is seeking.

Civil cases are somewhat different. Rather than filing a petition, the plaintiff files a complaint. If the case is filed in civil court rather than probate court, the defendant responds by filing an answer. The defendant either admits or denies the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint in that answer. The defendant also prevents any defenses that he has to the allegations.

At times, the parties to the estate litigation matter determine that it would be more efficient or cost effective to pursue mediation rather than continue with the lawsuit. Our article, “Mediation and San Diego Probate Court Litigation: An Overview,” provides guidance on the mediation process.

For more information about how the trust litigation process works, view our free guide, Winning the Inheritance Battle: The Ultimate Guide to California Trust and Probate Litigation. We encourage you to share this article with your friends and family on Facebook!

Related Links

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