Deposition Questions in a Probate Case
Debates over the proper distribution of a person’s estate can get heated and confrontational. As experienced probate attorneys know, probate matters mix finances and emotional distress into a particularly inflammatory concoction. The issues to a particular probate case may vary from interpreting terms in a will, to establishing a potential beneficiary’s relationship to the decedent, to battles over the validity of a will or specific terms. If a person dies intestate, the matter can get even more complex. Below, we discuss some of the areas of questioning that attorneys may explore during a probate deposition. Reach out to our professional and comprehensive Phoenix court reporters for deposition services throughout the state of Arizona.
Relationship to the Decedent
If a potential beneficiary of a will is deposed, they will likely need to establish both their physical and emotional relationship to the decedent in order to make a compelling case concerning their inheritance (or lack thereof). Questions may include:
- Familial relationship to the decedent
- Legal relationship to the decedent
- History with the decedent – time spent together, relationship, conflicts
- Time spent with the decedent in more recent years, including any conflicts
- Discussions concerning inheritance with the decedent
- Personal financial situation
Concerns About the Validity of a Will
Many probate disputes concern the validity of a will, especially when a new will is entered shortly before a person passes away, and that will named new beneficiaries. Some areas to consider questioning include:
- Specifics of a will signing: Who was there, was it notarized, who signed as a witness, etc.
- Circumstances that led to a will being changed
- Time each inherited and disinherited beneficiary spent with the decedent in their later years
- Possibility of improper influence by a caretaker, agent of the decedent such as a lawyer or accountant, relative, or new spouse
- The mental and emotional state of the decedent shortly before signing the will and shortly before passing away
- The decedent’s mental capacity at the time the will was put into place or revoked
Concerns About Breach of Fiduciary Duty
In addition to questions about the validity of the will or the inheritance of a particular beneficiary, many probate matters concern whether the administrator of the estate or the trustee of a trust breached their fiduciary duties owed to the trust, the decedent, or the family. Deposition questions of a fiduciary may include:
- Unusual transfers of funds and support thereof
- Authorizations for asset transfers or investment strategies
- Descriptions of and explanations for investment strategies
- A personal relationship with the decedent, family members, and other beneficiaries
- Any concerns over specific behavior toward the decedent witnessed by other parties
These are just a few areas of questioning that an attorney may explore in a probate matter. Depending on the nature of the case, the issues at play, the specific challenges to the will or trust, and the parties involved, deposition questions in a probate matter can vary widely.
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