A Law Career

Must Estate Litigation Lead To A Trial?

by Ruby Mckinney

Regardless of which side of an estate dispute you might be on, the idea of everyone hiring attorneys may leave you wondering whether this means the issue will go to trial. Hiring an estate litigation lawyer is a notable escalation of the situation, as is someone filing a lawsuit. It doesn't necessarily mean there will be a trial, but you do want to prepare for that possibility. These three factors will affect how likely a trial may be.

Nature of the Dispute

There are only a handful of reasons for anyone to litigate an estate. First, someone may question the actions of the executor or administrator of the estate. This is especially the case if someone believes there was fraud, self-dealing, favoritism, or negligence involved.

Second, people may disagree over the grantor's intent. For example, the will might be out of date, and there may be questions about how to administer the estate. The language of the will could also be unactionable, ambiguous, or inapplicable.

Third, a person may have died without a will. A probate court may have ruled in an attempt to deduce the decedent's intent. However, folks with ties to the deceased might believe the probate judge got it wrong.

Finally, a party with an interest in the decedent's finances may have a claim against the estate. Normally, the probate process should catch this sort of problem. Mistakes happen, however, a creditor or tax agency might sue to recover money the decedent owed to them.


Some folks emotionally move into litigation because they feel they deserve something. That is likely to be a very different kind of case than one where the beneficiaries believe they have proof the executor was negligent in handling the assets.

An emotional person may have a valid case, but they may also be digging in and suing because they're angry. However, a judge will sort out whether there's a viable case there or not. If there isn't, the opposing estate litigation attorney will probably ask the court to dismiss the suit with prejudice so they won't have to address the questions again.

Settlement is an Option

Whenever there is civil litigation, the parties always have the option to settle. Even if the case is headed to trial, they can still settle. The discovery process sometimes turns up evidence that resolves disputes and allows settlements, for example. Similarly, a judge may order the sides to try to settle the matter before burdening the system with the case.

For more information, contact an estate litigation lawyer near you.