Losing a loved one is hard enough without encountering challenges regarding their estate. However, in some cases, it is necessary to get the courts involved. Probate litigation can involve nearly any estate planning instrument, including wills, trusts, guardianships, and powers of attorney.
When someone believes their loved one’s estate is being mishandled, it can be hard to know where to begin. Today, we cover the essential steps of initiating a probate case in California.
Possible causes of action relating to probate
As we discussed in a previous post, several situations can initiate probate litigation, including:
- Undue influence
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Signature issues that invalidate the will
- Trustee misconduct
- Suppressing documents
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Financial elder abuse
- Unjust enrichment
Probate litigation often involves both probate and civil causes of action, which an attorney can help you distinguish and file correctly. In the beginning stages, a plaintiff does not need to have specific proof of their claims. Instead, they state that upon “information and belief,” their claims are true and that they will obtain evidence during the next stage of litigation – discovery.
Choosing the right venue for litigation
The first step in probate litigation, as we allude to above, is filing a petition with the court. One of the most common challenges at the beginning of probate litigation is determining the proper court in which to file. If the deceased was a California resident at the time they passed, the action is filed in the county where they lived. Otherwise, jurisdiction depends on where the person’s property was located and where they died.
As with so many things in life, the uncertainty of a situation can decrease significantly when you just know where to start. If a probate lawsuit is right for you, consider these topics as you move forward.