A person died. You are the closest living relative, and you have been omitted from the will. Is it worth contesting the will? What are the pros and cons of contesting the will? How much does it cost to contest a will? The decision to contest a will depends on the value of estate being contested and the cost of contesting the will. It is worth contesting a will when the benefit outweighs the cost. What you should get from the estate if the will is invalidated should be substantially higher than your estimated costs of contesting the will.
Cost of contesting a will
Your cost to contest a will depends on your fee arrangement with the attorney and the stage at which your claim is concluded. Generally, expect to pay three to four figures if you settle out of court, low four to five figures if you settle during the initial probe, low to mid five figures if you settle during discovery, and at the higher end of five figures if you go through trial.
Compare that amount with the value of the estate and the value of the estate you will get in case the will is invalidated. You also need to take into consideration the strength of your case. All these factors will come into play when determining whether it is worth it to contest a will.
Payment terms with your lawyer
Usually, your lawyer will charge an hourly basis on will contests, ranging from $350 to $600 per hour, with a retainer agreement of $3000 that serves as an advanced deposit on the lawyer’s hourly fees.
In exceptional cases, a lawyer will accept your case on contingency fee. Under this arrangement, you don’t have to pay your lawyer his legal fees unless he is able to successfully recover an award or settlement for you. This success fee, the lawyer’s contingent fee, is generally 1/3 of the award or settlement, and is paid in addition to the lawyer’s legal fees. Lawyers typically propose contingency fees in will contests when your case is strong and the value of the estate involves at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The stage at which your will contest is concluded
Your legal fees are also dependent on the stage at which your will contest is concluded. The longer the will contest is dragged on, the higher the attorney fees. The earlier parties settle, the lower the attorney fees.
When determining whether it is worth it to file a will contest, evaluate or estimate when your will contest will be concluded, based on your understanding of the personalities concerned. Do you think they will settle early or not at all? Do you have a strong case? Was the will drafted and its execution supervised by a lawyer?
In our experience, the initial probe will usually determine whether it is worth it to contest the will. The initial probe will produce the medical records of the decedent, and these medical records will show the capacity of the decedent to be influenced based on the decedent’s mental status at the time the will was executed. Depending on the complexity of the case and the volume of documents received, the costs of an initial probe in a will contest can range from the high four figures to the low five figures.
Estate pays costs if you win
If you are successful in your objection against the probate of the will, the likelihood is high that you will be able to recover some, if not most, of your legal expenses from the estate. This is because your action is deemed to be beneficial for the estate. You have prevented a fake will, a will that does not reflect the true intention of the decedent, from being probated. If your claim is unsuccessful, you will be liable to pay for your own legal fees.
To ensure you don’t waste valuable funds in contesting the will, it is essential to make a cost benefit analysis on whether it is worthwhile to contest a will, given the value of the estate and the strength of your claim. If you would like to contest a will and you are considering your options, we at the law offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.