How to Contest a Will in Texas?
This is a broad question that I receive often. Like other forms of litigation, there is no one size fits all approach to contesting a will and every case is different. However, if I could sum up the general steps in a very broad fashion, they would be:
- Consult a lawyer experienced in handling will contests. Do not delay, as important rights can be lost, as well as procedural and strategic advantage;
- Assist the lawyer by providing factual background and copies of pertinent documents. This is important, as no contest should be filed without a good faith belief that the offered will should be denied probate or set aside;
- A contest is initiated by filing a petition setting out the reasons the offered will should be denied probate or set aside. I like to include detailed factual allegations in my petitions, but that isn't always possible due to time constraints;
- Cooperate with your lawyer in preparing and responding to discovery;
- Almost all probate Judges in Texas these days require will contests to be mediated. A significant number of cases I file are settled fairly quickly, sometimes even without the need for a formal mediation. Others are mediated after months of discovery; and
- If the case does not settle, be prepared to commit a significant amount of time to a trial. I will expand on these very general areas in later postings.