Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant in a civil suit, you should always be open to the idea of settling your case out of court. In fact, far more civil cases are settled out of court than in court. According to a Bureau of justice Statistics’ Survey of State Courts, only 3% of tort, contract, and real property lawsuit that the courts disposed of were decided by trial (2% by a jury). Going to trial can be unpleasant and costly in terms of time, money, and emotion. While the client has the final word on the decision to accept a settlement offer, he or she should listen to the counsel of his or her attorney in such matters.
People who normally are reasonable, sometimes become out of control during the closing and distribution of their parent’s or spouse’s probate or trust estate. A lot of hurtful things are sometimes said and done. An experienced probate, will and trust attorney can help close the estate without litigation. Let me give you an example. A blended family. His kids. Her kids. Second marriage. The kids were all adults when their parents married. So there is not that parent bond and connection for the step-children. The attorney, by understanding the emotions, can go a long ways towards settling everyone down and getting through the estate closing and distribution without drama leading to the filing of a lawsuit.
If the parents treat each child equally there is not usually a fight over that issue. When the distribution is not equal there is likely to be complaints. Say that there is one child from the father, and two children from the mother. Three children in this blended family. The children will think the only fair way to divide this is equal shares, 1/3 each. But mom and dad may have had a different idea. Their wills may divide the estate by halves. That is ½ to dad’s child and ½ to mother’s two children. Or, what also occurs is the I love you wills left all to the survivor. The surviving spouse has lost contact with the step-children, or if they are included in the surviving spouse’s estate, if it for a less share that their parent intended. An experienced probate, will and trust attorney will encourage communication. Providing copies of the testamentary document to the children is a good start. Sometimes it is advisable to have a meeting to read the will and explain what it means. The personal representative or trustee is legally required to follow the will or trust distribution. In either situation mentioned above, it is what the parents wished. Maybe the step-children did not participate in the care of the surviving spouse. That would certainly be a good reason for a change of affection and can lead to a change in the will or trust of the survivor. Maybe that is not the way the children would do it, but it is their way mom and dad did it. The Bible has teaching that states you should honor your parents. In this situation it is honoring what they have done. .
If the attorney’s appeal to the moral high ground does not work, my trusts have a failure to cooperate provision and a strong no contest provision (in terrorem-a legal threat against anyone who contests the will or trust, usually disinheritance) in wills and trusts. The failure to cooperate can result in a forfeiture. A legal contest will result in a forfeiture if the contest is lost. Those legal risks tend to tamp down the objections and make swallowing what the parent did more likely. An experienced probate, will and trust attorney can sometimes settle an objection before it boils over into a lawsuit.
Court cases in real life are far different from the dramatic scenes we see on television. I am experienced in the legal system and know how to work within it. I have tried bench trials and jury trials. I have participated in medicated cases and reached successful settlements. If you need an experienced probate, will and trust attorney, contact Brent D. Coldiron, attorney at law, 1800 E. Memorial Road, Suite 106, Oklahoma City, OK 73131 or 2801 Parklawn Drive, Suite 503, Midwest City, OK 73110; telephone (405) 478-5655 and 737-2244. Brent has over 41 years experience handling a variety of legal matters, including probates, will, trusts, business formation, elder law, Medicaid qualification for nursing home care, corporations, limited liability companies, and guardianships. Give Brent a call, he knows what to do!