X died. He left Will, No. 1 to our client who was a child of one of his old girlfriends. The Will was approximately 12 years old. It was done by an attorney who had held the Will until after the death of X. It was a Will done by an attorney, properly witnessed and so forth. There was no question that it was a good Will. He offered it into probate and the Will was contested by X’s nephew who came forward with a holographic Will signed by X just months before his death. The case went to trial, each side presented evidence that their Will should prevail and each side presented various oral and written documentation and evidence as to how much the decedent actually hated the other party. The main issue is was the holographic Will done by X? It was properly all in his hand, dated, and signed, and it all looked like X’s handwriting. Our side presented evidence that showed first of all that there were a lot of problems with the writing and the signature and the nephew came forward with experts supporting his Will. In other words, it was a battle of experts. The experts spent two days arguing back and forth at trial over the validity of the Number Two Will. On the last day of trial as it was ending and it was submitted to the court, the judge indicated to all the litigants and the attorneys that we all knew this was a long 3-day weekend and that we had pretty much ruined his weekend because now he had to spend the whole weekend going over all the testimony of the experts, etc., and try to decide an issue that was essentially a “coin flipper.” I immediately turned to opposing counsel and said, “Did you hear that?” And she replied, “I’m not sure”. I said to her that the judge is saying to us that each of our clients has a 50% chance or losing this case. She replied, “Oh”. I then said, “Let’s ask the court to give us a 10 minute continuance while we discuss this matter”. She responded, “Okay”. We then went outside and had short discussion and decided that neither wanted our clients to take a chance on a 50% chance of losing the case and it would be far better to split the estate equally between the two of them. We arrived at that decision in just minutes, conferred with our clients, and returned to the court and announced the settlement and wished the court a happy weekend. The bottom line, 50% of something is much better than 100% of nothing. Everyone went home sort of happy.
DIFFICULT TRUST LITIGATION
On behalf of Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP | Jan 9, 2015 | Firm News