When is it worth it to sue for your inheritance? Lawsuits can be expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining. But there are two big issues involved in every Trust and Will lawsuit: principle and money. By principle, we are referring to what is right and what is just. Of course, we all know that life can be unfair, especially when dealing with family arguments. There are times, however, when people feel compelled—rightly so—to stand up for what they believe to be right.
What is the Right Thing to Do?
For example, let’s assume your parents created a Trust fifteen years ago that leaves everything equally to their three children. They have always said that they intend to treat their children equally. Your dad passes away, and your sister moves into mom’s house to care for her. Only she doesn’t. In fact, you are forced to hire a caregiver to come in seven days a week because your sister is doing nothing to help out. After two years of dealing with difficult relations between you and your sister, your mother passes away. After her death, you learn for the first time that her Trust has been amended. The Trust amendment says that your sister is to receive everything, and you and your brother get nothing. The Trust amendment was allegedly signed two months before your mother’s death.
You know straight away that the Trust amendment is unfair. It certainly is not what your parents wanted based on their many years of saying they intend to treat their children equally. You also suspect that your sister, who was living with mom, somehow procured the amendment. Do you fight for your share of your parents’ estate, or do you walk away?
This is a good example of the principle involved in many Trust and Will lawsuits. It’s not just about the money; it’s about what is right. Fighting for what is right and just often drives people to act and understandably so.
What About the Costs?
What about the money lost in this example? Perhaps your one-third of the Trust estate was worth $200,000, or maybe $500,000, or $2 million. The more money at stake, the easier the decision to take action in court becomes because it more easily justifies the expense of filing a lawsuit in the first place. If you hire a lawyer to sue your sister to overturn the Trust, and it costs you $75,000 to do so, then suing for $2 million is different than suing for $100,000. If I had to spend $75,000 to recover $100,000, I might not do that. If, however, I had to spend $75,000 to recover $2 million, then I would do that—it’s a no-brainer.
What if you don’t have the money to sue at all no matter how much is at stake. That’s where contingency comes in. Firms like ours will agree to take a Trust contest lawsuit case in exchange for a percentage of the amount we obtain for you. That percentage varies based on the issues involved in your case. The typical contingency fee is 40%, but that percentage can be reduced for cases where the legal rights are better.
So, would you agree to give up 40% of your inheritance to hire a lawyer? It all depends on what you are likely to get. It may be better to get 60% of something, rather than 100% of nothing. If you are not going to receive a penny without a lawyer, then you don’t have much of a choice.
Of course, the final option is always available: do nothing. Doing nothing is always a viable option. It just can be hard to accept.