Estate Disputes and Prior Correspondence
In many cases, disputes regarding estates happen months or years after the initial disagreement begins. During this period of tumultuous activity within a family, many communications are sent, through either email, texts, letters, or other forms of technology. With so many ways to communicate, it is important to remember that these communications can all become actual evidence, admissible at trial in an estate dispute.
When families and beneficiaries cannot agree regarding a decedent’s estate, oftentimes, the matter will have to be settled at trial. Trials are substantially based on evidence, and there are very specific, legally enforceable, rules that relate to the evidence that must be presented at trial.
When Evidence Can Make the Difference
In many cases, as a loved one ages, they may start to exhibit signs of diminished mental capacity. It is in these times that an unscrupulous or manipulative person can enter the life of our loved one, and begin to “take care of them.” At first, this may seem like genuine help, genuine assistance, and genuine care. However, as the person gets closer to the elderly person, they may offer to “help” with finances or medical decisions. If the elderly person is persuaded to change their power of attorney, or their estate plan in any way, it may be to the benefit of their new “helper.” Consequently, the elderly person’s beneficiaries and family may be removed from the estate and the new person written in as a sole beneficiary.
Types of Communication
In some of these cases, there will have been communications between your elderly loved one and this unscrupulous person. Any communications from social media rants, to voicemails or written letters, might be used as exhibits in an estate trial. While many people may not think of a text or a social media post as evidence allowable in court, it is precisely these types of communications that can show the state of mind of the elderly person, and their manipulation by another person.
One of the rules of evidence is the hearsay rule, which states that certain evidence is inadmissible in court if the communication was not directly from that party. Hearsay is a statement that the declarant does not make while testifying at a current trial (or hearing) and a party offers that statement or communication into evidence to prove the truth of the matter that is asserted within that statement or communication.
However, one exception provides that hearsay evidence can often be admissible if it is an admission of a party opponent and the evidence is also offered against that party. The rules of evidence are complicated, and if you have evidence that can help your case in an estate trial, visiting with an experienced estate litigation attorney can help you understand what types of communications you can use in your case.
Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
If your loved one was manipulated by someone to change their estate in any way prior to their death, you may have the right to contest the will, or file a dispute regarding the estate in court. If you are considering contesting a trust, contacting an experienced attorney can help you understand what types of communication you may enter into evidence if you believe your loved one was coerced in any way. If you believe you have the right to contest a trust, you have the right to receive strong representation in the litigation process. Contact our experienced Prince Frederick estate & trust litigation attorneys serving southern Maryland at Meng Law at 410-535-5500 or online today.