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Finding a Florida Estate Litigation Attorney: 5 Characteristics to Look For

Uncategorized Jun 12, 2017
post about Finding a Florida Estate Litigation Attorney: 5 Characteristics to Look For

What should you look for when you interview estate litigation attorneys to handle your probate matter? Are you involved in a Florida will contest or inheritance lawsuit? Well, if you are, you have most likely already been advised to hire a probate litigator. But how do you know who to hire for your estate matter? What should you look for in the Florida probate litigators who you are interviewing?

Here are 5 characteristics or traits in lawyers which you may want to keep in mind when you talk to them.
1. Limited. Focused. Most people want specialists today. Do you want a jack of all trades handling your one probate contest or objection to the will? Consider someone who has enough success to limit their clients. Consider a law firm which only handles probate matters, and who also restricts his or her practice to only lawsuits & trials. There are literally a handful of firms that limit their practice to probate, and most of them write wills and trusts, too. Wouldn’t it be great to find a trust and estate law firm which only handles trials and disputes, and which does not write wills or trusts? Don’t you want a lawyer who is in the court room, calling witnesses, arguing points of evidence, cross examining the one you are suing? Someone who handles trials and appeals of probate lawsuits. This is a different type of lawyer than a typical estate lawyer or probate attorney. How? Well, estate lawyers and probate attorneys may be more concerned with the Estate Tax and the Probate Code rather than the Florida Evidence Code and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Be wary of the probate lawyer who tells you that they go to court all the time, but are silent about how many trials they have had.
2. Fast & furious. Another way to say “aggressive.” Most prospective clients who I have had the pleasure of speaking with want a fighter. Someone to go on the offensive. Ask the lawyer you are interviewing how fast they move, whether they are aggressive, and whether they set the pace of the probate lawsuit. Or, does this lawyer, rather, REACT, to everything the other lawyer does? Look for a lawyer who matches your personality. And if it’s action you want from your probate litigation law firm, keep searching ‘til you get someone fast and furious.
3. Common sense. Consider hiring someone who is confident enough to know when they are winning. After all, aggressive litigation skills are great, but you need intelligence, street smarts, and plain old common sense to advise you in the decisions which you will make in your probate or trust lawsuit. Let’s admit it: fighting “ain’t” worth the time if you can get what you want by reputation or fast paced lawyering. If an offer comes your way through possible settlement or mediation, your estate litigator should tell you about this. In the end, it’s your decision. But…if there’s a chance to settle the matter, if the other side wants out, and they cave, one should at least listen, right? Now, let’s get one thing perfectly clear: this does NOT mean that you should always settle, or not be aggressive, or merely do nothing in hopes of settling. Absolutely not. And you have to be careful of this when looking for a probate attorney. Everyone probably knows what lawyers always settle and never go to trial. Do you want a lawyer who is afraid to go to trial? If you are serious about your estate lawsuit, then you should be focused and have a detailed litigation strategy: and then have the right litigator or trial attorney to be forward-moving, aggressive, focused, advancing your case along. Positioning your lawsuit. Building leverage for you with victories on the way to trial. But get one with common sense. If the other side wants to surrender, at least hear what they have to say. If someone puts money on your table, shouldn’t you at least consider it? Fight with an objective in mind. A dollar figure. A goal. Don’t just fight to fight.
4. Respected. Is the Palm Beach trust lawyer or estate attorney who you hired respected by other litigators, by the probate court judges, and by other lawyers? Ideally, your litigator’s reputation should be in the court room before he or she shows up. Why? Well, if she or he is really experienced and good at estate litigation, then he or she has probably been doing it for years. After all, it takes a while to get really, really good at anything, right? And, if you have been handling estate trials or appeals for 20 or 25 years, and you are good, then you probably, hopefully!, have some major victories under your belt. And other lawyers and probate judges probably know about that success. Now, this does not mean that a young attorney can’t do a good job. Nor does this mean that someone who has never handled an inheritance trial could not do a good job. To the contrary. If you know a really good attorney who can handle a complex trial, you may want to give ‘em a shot. But if you don’t, and you need to interview a probate or estate litigation law firm, consider their success, and reputation. Are they respected? Will you be respected when your estate trial begins?
5. After the trial victory. Does your lawyer, or his or her law firm, know how to handle probate & trust appeals in Florida? What if you win and the other side takes an appeal? Ideally, the best starting point for an appellate attorney is at the trial level. That’s typically a more suitable approach to the appeal. Your team is on the ground, was familiar with the hearings, the trial records, the transcripts, the rulings and the possible ways to fight the appeal if you win and the other side appeals. Ask your trial lawyer if they have any pending appeals in the appellate courts. And remember: the worst time to consider an appeal is when somebody filed a notice of appeal. You should be thinking about appellate work at the trial level. Just in case. Good luck.