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Tampa Estate Planning Attorney > Blog > Estate Planning > What Happens If The Probate Court Asks You To Give A Deposition?

What Happens If The Probate Court Asks You To Give A Deposition?


In probate as in other legal matters, the courts are not supposed to make arbitrary or hasty decisions.  The rules of civil procedure require that both parties, with the representation of their lawyers, have time to prepare their arguments and present evidence to support them.  In emergency situations where judges must make quick decisions, the resulting court orders are temporary and modifiable.  No one would ask a judge to decide based on his or her gut feeling whether to execute the will submitted for probate or to declare it invalid.  In disputes over wills, the party that wishes the challenge the will must present a compelling argument as to why the will is not valid, and the personal representative of the estate must present a compelling argument as to why it is valid.  In probate cases, it is often possible to tell the whole story just by presenting written documents and having your lawyer interpret them, but sometimes witness testimony is necessary.  For questions about probate disputes and how to avoid these disputes, contact a Tampa estate planning lawyer.

Depositions Are as Serious as Testifying at Trial

In civil cases, depositions with witnesses are a common and important part of the pretrial discovery phase.  Both parties have the right to summon witnesses for a deposition, and the deposition involves the lawyer for the party that summoned the witness questioning him or her about information related to the case and then the lawyer for the opposing party cross examining the witness in order to find weaknesses in the version of events the original party seems to be presenting or inconsistencies in the witness’s story.

From a legal perspective, giving a deposition is a lot like testifying at trial.  When a witness gives a deposition, he or she is providing sworn testimony.  At the beginning of the deposition, the witness takes an oath to answer the questions truthfully, just like at trial.  The same rules about perjury and pleading the Fifth Amendment apply for depositions as for trials.  A court reporter makes a transcript of the deposition, and the parties may use parts of the transcript, or even the entire thing, as evidence.

What to Do Before and During a Deposition in a Probate Case

In probate disputes, heirs, disinherited relatives, and the personal representative of the estate may be required to give depositions.  If you are a party in the dispute, your lawyer may tell you beforehand the questions he or she plans to ask, and you can prepare your answer.  You can also strategize with your lawyer about questions you may get during cross examination and the best way to answer them.  If you do not know the answer to a question, you can say that you do not know.  “I don’t know” is a valid and useful answer to a question during a deposition, especially if it takes place early in the pretrial discovery phase.

Contact David Toback With Questions About Probate Disputes

A Central Florida estate planning lawyer can help you settle an estate even if there is a dispute about the will.  Contact David Toback in Tampa, Florida to set up a consultation.



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