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Do I need a litigation lawyer?

Hollister, CA |

My father passed away in early April. He left behind a wife with whom he was separated for 20 years, myself and my half brother. His estranged wife naturally has come around. She took all legal documentaion from the house and is not willing to give us copies. She is on the title to one of his properties and the other is held in trust and is a sole and separate property. The will he left behind is one he made himself on the computer and is only witnessed by my half brother and his estranged wife and they are both beneficiaries, there are no other witnesses except for the notary who notarized it. His houses are both worth over 500,000. Any help would be great. By the way we are in California.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. You absolutely need a probate litigation lawyer, and the sooner you see one, the better. Take all of the paperwork you have. I would also see if you can check online records and determine the title to the assets. One of the issues will be trying to "lock down" the assets until you can figure out who is supposed to get what.

    You have a number of issues that need to be sorted out, including California's community property laws, whether or not the Will is valid, what assets are part of the trust, as opposed to the Will, and who should be in charge of everything.

    Find a qualified lawyer as soon as possible! You can click on the link below, "find a lawyer," and try to find a probate litigation lawyer in your area.

    James Frederick

    I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.


  2. You need to run not walk to an attorney. This is what we call an extremely complex situation.

    Disclaimer: The foregoing answer does not constitute legal advice, is provided for informational and educational purposes only for persons interested in the subject matter. Each situation is fact specific and may be subject to state specific laws. Without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem fully. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. No Tax Advice - Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment is not intended to constitute a comprehensive and complete tax consideration analysis, and may not be used by the taxpayer to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency, nor for the purpose of promoting, marketing or making recommendations to other persons on any tax-related matters.


  3. The short answer is yes, you need a probate litigator. The "computer" will witnessed by your half-brother and his wife is likely invalid, since beneficiaries may not serve as will witnesses. There are issues of undue influence involved in your fact situation; as well as issues of money tracing (the estranged wife).

    Good luck!

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