Legally, you are not required to hire an attorney when contesting a will in court, and you may try to represent yourself. You may be concerned about the cost of hiring a Louisiana estate litigation attorney, or you may be so confident in your case that you think a lawyer is unnecessary. However, there are benefits to hiring an estate litigation lawyer, and there are risks if you don’t have one.
How an Estate Litigation Lawyer May Help You
Before the court even considers your case, you must prove to the court that:
- You have standing to contest the will. You likely have the right to contest a will if you are a named beneficiary in the will, if you would have the right to inherit property if the decedent died without a will, or you have a legal interest in the estate.
- You are filing a will contest within the required amount of time. Louisiana law typically allows people to challenge the will for up to five years from the date the will is admitted to probate.
- You have legal grounds to contest the will. You must have a reason to contest the will. This reason could be: (1) the person making the will lacked the capacity to do it; (2) the person making the will was under undue influence; (3) the will was not properly executed; (4) the will was forged; (5) the will was revoked; or (6) there was fraud or some other mistake that prevents the will from being upheld in Louisiana.
Once the court chooses to hear your will contest, an experienced estate litigation lawyer can present evidence and make arguments to show that you have legal grounds to contest the will and you took action within the required time.
Risks of Contesting a Will Without a Lawyer
Will contests are often complex. The burden is on you to prove that the will is invalid. Accordingly, if you decide to pursue a will contest without the help of an experienced lawyer, you risk:
- Spending a lot of time on the case. You will need to gather evidence, prepare legal arguments, and communicate with the court and the attorney representing the estate. All of this takes time and may be challenging to fit into your schedule.
- Emotional upset. You likely know and may love other people who will be impacted by the will contest. It may be easier to have an attorney represent your interests rather than try to do it yourself.
- A fair outcome in the case. The court can only decide your will contest based on the evidence you provide and the arguments you make. An experienced lawyer will make sure that all relevant evidence and arguments are considered, so your case is decided fairly.
Three Situations When an Attorney Is Especially Important
Regardless of your situation, an estate litigation lawyer may be cost-effective and provide you with peace of mind. However, an experienced estate litigation attorney may be especially important if:
- The estate involves a lot of money
- You and your close family members disagree about contesting the will
- The evidence is complicated
Whether one of these situations applies to you or not, we encourage you to consider how an estate litigation attorney may help you.
Contact an Estate Litigation Lawyer to Learn More About Your Case
Contact our experienced Louisiana estate litigation attorneys to learn if we can help you with your will contest. Take the first step in learning more about your rights by contacting us to schedule an initial consultation.