Probate Litigation in California

Contra Costa County Courthouse

1225 Alpine Rd. Suite 201
Walnut Creek, CA
Tel: 925.938.9100
Fax: 925.938.9101




Jay William Jacobus
Trial, Discovery, and Procedural Strategies
In matters regarding probate litigation, the primary witness is often deceased, or incompetent. Therefore, the evidence is often of a secondary nature and/or circumstantial.
The client and opposing parties are often inclined to put forward their own perspective on the situation, rendering their own interpretation of the facts, since the primary witness is unavailable to verify or deny the truth of the matter.
Because much of the evidence is circumstantial and more difficult to discover than in other forms of litigation, it is crucial that proper discovery tactics are used at the right time and in the proper sequence to maximize the client's position. Improper timing or improper use of a certain discovery tactic may give the opposition ample time and information to construct their own version of the events before their positions and depositions are taken. In short, the inexperienced lawyer may reveal too much, too soon, which allows the opposition to make up a story that may not be disprovable. We offer a complete analysis of the proper discovery techniques, and when to use these skills, to maximize the client's representation.
An important consideration is the amount of pre-trial time that will be involved; each Court asks for an approximation of the time necessary for discovery, mediation, and trial. With ordinary litigation, the discovery process usually takes less time than discovery in a probate litigation. Counsel should communicate a realistic timeline to clients, so all parties are aware of the time necessary to accomplish these important tasks.
Additionally, it is important for clients to understand which party in a lawsuit or mediation has the burden of proof. In probate litigation, the burden of proof in each matter is established by statutory and case law. Although some courts and lawyers are lax about this point, and some judges will tell you to "just put everything on the table," pre-trial motions and strategies as to the burdens of proof are critical.

Pasadena City Hall

"At trial, a major problem is the inexperienced judge or commissioner who may be hearing the matter."

Our firm provides comprehensive trial strategies, not only to maximize the case, but also to inform hearing officers of the facts as they apply to the specifics of probate law.