Probate litigation is a legal process that involves challenging or defending the validity of a will, trust or other estate planning document. Probate litigation can arise when there is a dispute among the heirs, beneficiaries, creditors or other parties who have an interest in the estate of a deceased person.
The Georgia probate litigation process can vary depending on the type and complexity of the case, but generally follows a given path.
Filing a petition
The person who initiates the probate litigation must file a petition with the appropriate probate court in Georgia. The petition must state the grounds for the challenge or claim and name the parties involved.
The petitioner must also serve a copy of the petition and a notice of hearing to all interested parties.
Responding to the petition
The parties who receive the petition and notice of hearing have a certain amount of time to file a response with the court. The response must either admit or deny the allegations in the petition and state any defenses or counterclaims. The parties must also serve a copy of their response to the petitioner and other parties.
Discovery is the phase where the parties exchange information and evidence relevant to the case. Discovery can include interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, depositions, subpoenas and expert witnesses.
Discovery can help the parties evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case and facilitate settlement negotiations.
Mediation is a voluntary process where the parties try to resolve their dispute with the help of a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator does not decide the outcome of the case, but rather facilitates communication and helps the parties find common ground. Mediation can save time and money and preserve relationships among the parties.
The trial is where the parties present their evidence and arguments to support their position. The losing party may appeal the trial court’s decision to a higher court if they believe there was an error of law or fact that affected the outcome of the case. The appeal process can take several months or years and involve additional costs and fees.