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Overview of how probate litigation works

While probate litigation in Minnesota is unique in many respects, in a lot of other ways, a probate dispute will play out in court in the same manner as any other lawsuit. It is important to understand this basic process for two reasons. One, it can help a person both better understand the nuances of his or her case and successfully formulate a winning strategy. Furthermore, the knowledge of how probate litigation works can also give a person some sense of how long the case will take and how much the case will cost.

Like any other lawsuit filed in Minnesota, probate litigation begins when a person files a complaint asking a court for some sort of relief. The request can include a request for compensation or a request for a court order declaring something to be true or requiring a person to do or avoid doing a particular action. Usually, but not always, the target of the complaint has an opportunity to file a response. The response is usually brief.

While it is relatively easy to initiate the lawsuit, by far the most-time consuming phase of litigation is the discovery phase. Usually, the court will establish some definite deadlines in which each side must complete its investigation of the other side's case. Despite these deadlines, however, discovery can mean having to answer and ask multiple detailed questions and rounding up potentially hundreds or even thousands of documents. Furthermore, a person involved may be required during this phase to give his or her testimony under oath in a deposition.

If the case does not get resolved before the discovery phase, it will go to trial. In some cases, a party will demand and receive a jury trial. In other cases, the judge will decide the outcome. While trials themselves are not necessarily lengthy, trial preparation is often very time-consuming for an attorney, and that attorney will bill accordingly.

Source: Kane County Chronicle, "In your court: the phases of litigation," Anthony Scifo, Oct. 10, 2014

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Mason & Helmers
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