Opportunities to Resolve Your Probate Dispute

Probate dispute of probate law concept image.

Probate can be lengthy, costly, and overwhelming. The process can be even more stressful if family members do not agree how their loved one’s property should be distributed and the conflict must be resolved with litigation. It’s important to understand that if you are facing a probate dispute, there are a few steps you can take to resolve your case sooner. An experienced probate attorney can discuss the specific facts and circumstances of your case to help you develop a strategy that will ensure your case is resolved in as timely a manner as possible.

Here are four steps you can take to resolve your probate litigation case sooner:

1. Contact a Probate Litigation Attorney Immediately

It’s best to contact an attorney right away when a dispute arises in connection with the probate process. They can identify the legal issues in the case and discuss your options to resolve them. In the early stages — before litigation has commenced — legal counsel can work behind the scenes and help you determine if the probate dispute can be resolved without their representation ever being known. This can help to minimize the potential for escalation of conflict.

However, sometimes the “under the radar approach” does not work because there is a difficult family member, power disparities, or emotions are running too high. In these instances, a probate attorney can represent you in the dispute and deal with your family members (or their counsel) directly. This can help to take the emotional burden off your shoulders and provide you with peace of mind that the best possible outcome will be achieved in your case.

2. Consider Early Settlement for Your Probate Dispute

If a settlement cannot be reached, a formal legal action might be necessary to resolve the matter — and a petition or an objection to a petition, etc. may need to be filed with the court. At this point, the probate dispute will take on a new shape and the legal arguments will become more focused. While all of the facts are not known before discovery has been commenced (for example, documents such as medical records or bank accounts may still need to be obtained), parties may consider early settlement. Entering into a settlement at this point could avoid the discovery stage of litigation, which can be lengthy and expensive.

As parties continue along the litigation track, settlement can become more difficult because the parties may become entrenched in their positions. Some parties might also feel they have spent so much on legal fees that they may as well continue. But it’s vital to keep in mind that settling early in the process may be difficult because all the facts are not completely known. Critically, the emotional toll of the litigation is also a very real part of valuing when to settle. Having experienced counsel at all stages of a probate dispute helps a client to make the best decision possible when it comes to settlement strategies.

3. Consider Mediation to Resolve the Dispute

If early settlement has not been reached in the case, discovery is the next step in litigation. This can involve using tools such as interrogatories, requests for documents, requests for admissions, and depositions to obtain information about each side’s arguments. At this stage, the facts of the case become much clearer and the legal positions of each party can be enhanced — or they may deteriorate.

Before or after discovery, parties might consider mediation to help resolve the probate dispute. Mediation is a non-adversarial process that takes place in an informal environment where family members can openly discuss their issues, clarify their interests, and address their concerns. Rather than have the case decided by a judge, the parties can work together with the help of a neutral party called a mediator to reach a settlement that works for everyone. It can also save the parties a significant amount of time and money that would otherwise be spent litigating in the courtroom.

4. Think About Settling Your Case Before Trial

Whether mediation has been attempted or not, parties to a probate dispute should think about settling the case before it goes to trial. Not only are trials costly and time-consuming, but the outcome can be unpredictable. By settling before trial, the parties can remain in control of the outcome of the case and enter into a settlement agreement that works for them. Notably, a case can be settled at any time during trial preparation, during a trial, or even after a trial — before a decision has been rendered.

In the event a case is not settled, the parties may engage in motion practice. A case may be resolved on a motion for summary judgment alone. If the court grants a party’s motion for summary judgment, the case may be over. However, if the motion is denied, there is another opportunity for settlement.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Probate Litigation Attorney

If you are facing a probate dispute, it’s crucial to have a skillful probate attorney by your side who can help you navigate the legal process. At Dave Burns Law Office, I provide dedicated counsel for probate and estate litigation and work closely with my clients to achieve the best possible results in their cases.

If you would like to discuss your probate matter, I welcome you to contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by emailing dave@daveburnslaw.com. I represent clients throughout the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Categories: Probate

The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer