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Spend Wisely: Some thoughts on how to spend your money on the right depositions in your California Trust or Will lawsuit

Litigation is expensive. The chief reason for the high-cost is discovery. But discovery is a necessary part of preparing your case for settlement or trial, whichever occurs first. Motions, mediations, and trial all benefit from proper discovery being completed.

Chief among the useful discovery tools is depositions. Depositions are your chance to ask questions directly to the opposing party, third-party witnesses, or experts involved in your case. Knowing their testimony before trial helps you properly prepare. It can also expose more evidence that you were not aware of, which comes in handy for motions, mediations, and certainly at trial.

There is a cost to conducting depositions, however. First is the cost of paying your lawyer to prepare for the deposition. You only get one shot at a deposition, so you have to be sure you are ready to go with all the questions and documents you want to discuss.

Second, is the cost of paying your lawyer to attend and take the deposition. In California, depositions are limited to seven hours unless you have a court order for a longer period of time. But even at seven hours, that can cost a few bucks.

Finally, you have to pay the Court reporter for taking down the deposition testimony (and pay for the videographer if you video the deposition). A deposition transcript can cost anywhere from less than $1,000 to $2,500 or more. Court reporters charge by the page, so the longer the deposition, the more it costs. Videographers usually cost at least $1,500 and go up from there.

All told, a deposition can cost you from $4,000 to $10,000 or more, and that’s per deposition. So you have to ask yourself, is this deposition worth the cost?

In a perfect world, you would take as many depositions as possible to be sure you know as much as possible. But the world of Trust and Will litigation is rarely perfect. Sometimes you need to be strategic in how you spend your money on depositions.

At times, you can simply speak with a third-party witness to determine what they know. That does not require a deposition. But it also does not preserve their testimony for trial the way a deposition does. So you have to weigh that risk that they might say something different on the witness stand than what they told you in private (yes that happens…quite often in fact).

The bottom line is to use your money wisely. All depositions are worth the money, if you have the money to spend. If not, then select the most critical witnesses first, and work your way down from there.