I used the correct form in attempting to file a Notice to Caveat, but I was informed by a clerk at the Register of Wills that I did not use the right format? What is the correct format for filing a Caveat in Maryland?
If you are serious about contesting the Will, you are making a mistake to try to do it without an attorney. I have been doing this kind of work for 39 years and have never seen an unrepresented person be successful. On the other hand, on a number of occassions I've been successful in having the Petition to Caveat of an unrepresented person dismissed because of one or more mistakes. This is a very strict technical area of the law and mistakes can kill your claim. Generally, even with a lawyer the statistical success rate for will contests is probably below 10%. Here, you've already got a mistake. Be wise, consult a lawyer.
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Estate Planning Attorney
I agree with Mr. Meng. I only add that you should gather all of your documents, lists of witnesses, and copies of any other relevant documents, such as a copy of a prior will. You should then contact an attorney who does work in will contests or trust & estate litigation in Maryland. For some resources, have a look at this FAQ section on Maryland estate planning & probate:
You should then contact an attorney to review your case and move forward. There are a variety of fees for this type of representation. This attorney may charge for an initial consult; they may charge by the hour; they may charge a contingency, based on if you win; or they may charge some hybrid.
So you should be committed to the fact that you will need the assistance of an attorney, and you should find a fee arrangement that works with your financial situation and the prospects of success.
I am licensed to practice law in Virginia. Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, as each situation is fact specific, and it is not possible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and court pleadings filed in the case. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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Attorneys Meng and Murphy have given you excellent answers. My experience has been the same as theirs. Wills are very difficult to overturn in court. Even if your facts are good, you run the risk of poisoning the court against you by failing to follow appropriate procedures. You also do not know the law. There are things that you might miss that could win/lose the case.
Yes, lawyers can be expensive. Will contests CAN be long and costly. It is one of the reasons why most cases settle. The beneficiaries of the Will have the same problem as you, in that respect. But the Will is presumed to be valid until it is knocked out. THEIR attorney fees can also be paid out of the estate, while you are on your own, for yours. Nevertheless, if you proceed with this action without legal counsel, your chances go from difficult to darned near close to impossible.
In one case we worked on, the result went from $15k to $260k, after we took over. Yes, we were paid handsomely for the result. But the client's award was multiplied MANY times over what she otherwise would have received. She also had the side-benefit, (if you want to call it that, of forcing the other side to expend a great deal of money to defend themselves). We conducted extensive discovery, numerous depositions, and basically destroyed the other side's will to continue. Our client would not have been able to do this on her own. I would respectfully suggest that you cannot effectively do so, either.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER 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 your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.
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Wills and Living Wills Lawyer
I agree with the other responses. You really should have an experienced estate litigation attorney review the case and give you an opinion on the matter. Will Contests are extremely difficult and if you do prevail, the Will prior to the Will you are contesting would come in. I am an estate planning and probate and trust administration attorney and I would hire an attorney if I needed to contest a Will! Good luck.
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