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Guidance for Estate and Trust Litigants, Part VI: Get Advice Before You Say or Do Anything

May 5, 2013

Although in most cases litigants are not required to hire an attorney, if you have read the previous posts in this series, you will not be surprised that we counsel against “doing it yourself.”

This guidance is not directed primarily at clients who have been served with a complaint or petition, as most people call an attorney if they are served with the California Judicial Council Summons, which advises, among other things, “YOU ARE BEING SUED BY PLAINTIFF…NOTICE! You have been sued. The court may decide against you without your being heard unless you respond within 30 days…You may want to call an attorney right away.”)

At greater risk are potential clients who suspect they will have to sue, or will be sued, but delay hiring an attorney until they think it is “absolutely necessary.” As discussed in previous posts, this is dangerous for several reasons: You may blow the statute of limitations and forever lose your claim; if you are a defendant, the plaintiff may obtain a default judgment against you; you may say or write something that seriously damages your case; or obtain a signature from an elder later determined to lack capacity. Finally, waiting to hire an attorney, doing it yourself, or taking matters into you own hands will often, in the long run, result in higher attorneys’ fees.

Until potential clients have consulted with an attorney, we recommend they not talk or write about their case.

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