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Experts: What type are there?

There are more expert witnesses than you know what to do with in most cases. In Trust and Will litigation cases, we usually focus on the most relevant experts, which comes down to mental issues, financial issues, fiduciary issues, and accounting/asset tracing issues.

For mental issues we turn to physicians who are trained at examining and diagnosing mental defects such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Typically we are working with geriatric psychiatrists or neurologists. Although there are times when a treating physician, such as a general practice or internal medicine doctor, may testify to conditions that were observed and diagnosed during routine office visits. This may include things like the physician’s observations or administering a mini-mental exam to test for competence.

Financial issues in Trust and Will litigation usually involves either forensic accounting or investing. Forensic accountants are hired to find the money trail. They are usually certified public accountants familiar with tracing and recreating financial transactions so you can figure out where the money went. It does not take much to turn the finances of a Trust or Estate into a tangled web of confusion. It is the job of the forensic accountant to sort the mess out as best as he or she can and then testify about it in court.

Financial investing, however, is a bit different. That typically requires a certified financial planner who understands proper investment strategies and modern portfolio theory, which has been adopted by the rules of the Uniform Prudent Investor Act. The financial expert is able to testify about the type of investments that were made and why they were or were not appropriate for a Trust.

This is not exactly CSI type experts coming into court with fancy scientific lab results. But when you have a Trust or Will case, a little expertise is required to admit the evidence to the court. If you have no expert, then you may have no case.