This is the fourth post in my series on disputing a California will due to a lack of capacity on the part of the deceased. My last post discussed conducting discovery into whether a testator lacked capacity. Discovery is an important tool which must be utilized to properly build a case. In this article I will discuss another important topic – what to expect at trial in such a matter. I cannot stress enough that trials in will dispute cases are complicated and those in the San Bernardino area should retain an attorney to assist them.
Trial in a will dispute case will begin with each side making opening statements. This is not a time for argument. Instead, each side will state what evidence they intend to present, what that evidence will show, and what type of relief it is they will be asking for. Opening statements are not a time for argument; an attorney will not be able to state why it is they feel the other side’s case is wrong. If arguments are made during an opening statement then counsel for the other party will be permitted to object. The party challenging the last will and testament is the first to make an opening statement and the responding party will go second.
Testimony will begin after opening statements have been made. The party challenging the will is the first to present their case and the responding party will go second. After the response the requesting party will have an opportunity to present “rebuttal” evidence. Rebuttal is only an opportunity to counter what the responding party claimed; it is not an opportunity to present new evidence. This portion of trial will include testimony from witnesses as well as the introduction of other evidence such as emails, correspondence, financial records, and other information. Testimony from the party challenging the will should include things which objectively show that the deceased lacked capacity at the time the document was executed; simple matters of opinion will typically not be enough to bring a successful challenge.
After evidence is closed each side will make a closing argument. This is when the lawyer for each side is given the opportunity to dispute evidence presented by the opposition. After closing statements are made a decision will be reached regarding whether or not the will is valid. If the will is upheld then the matter will proceed to probate. If the will is invalidated then the matter will proceed through the intestate estate process. This means that assets will be divided according to California law and not in accordance with the deceased’s will.
Those wishing to challenge a will, due to a lack of capacity should contact a San Bernardino will dispute lawyer immediately. My office practices primarily in this area of law and we are ready to assist you. We also service Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Ontario, Victorville, Rialto, Hesperia, Chino, Upland, Apple Valley, Redlands, Highland, Colton, Yucaipa, Montclair, elsewhere in the Inland Empire, as well as Los Angeles.