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The Battle Requirement in Your Trust or Will Lawsuit

Why can’t the judge just throw the other side’s case out of court? Can’t the judge see the other side is lying or bringing a bogus claim? That’s not possible in our court system because of a concept known as Due Process of Law.

The American system of justice operates using a concept know as Due Process of Law. We inherited that concept from England when the colonies were founded, and we have used it ever since. Under Due Process of Law each side is allowed to have the truth determined by the trier of fact at trial. A trier of fact is either a judge (in the case of a bench trial) or a jury (in the case of a jury trial). Trial is meant to provide an objective and fair forum where evidence can be presented, and a decision made by the judge or jury.

Keep in mind that the facts you state in your court filings (in other words the allegations contained in your pleadings) are not evidence. You may think its evidence because it states the facts you believe to be true. But even those facts cannot be used without proper authentication as required under the California Evidence Code.

Think of it like a football game. Trial is like the football stadium where the game will be played. Evidence is the set of rules that dictates how the game is played. No football game is ever decided in the NFL outside the stadium. In other words, the referees cannot simply meet before the game and decide one team wins and the other team loses. A winner can only be determined after the game has been played on the football field where each team is given a chance to prevail.

Furthermore, in the NFL you can’t use twenty players for a play because it violates the rules. Same with trial. You can’t have the judge or jury read a document or hear from a witness unless it meets the rules of the game—the rules of evidence.

Your trust or will lawsuit works the same way. A winner cannot be chosen until after a trial takes place, in most cases. And the trial must be conducted according to the rules of evidence. Having said that, there are a few narrow exceptions. But the exceptions are so narrow that they need not be discussed here. That is the subject of a different post. And we can promise you, that the exceptions do not apply to your trust or will lawsuit. Well, maybe it applies to one of you out of fifty thousand, but that’s being generous.

The point is, don’t think that you can short circuit the process. Our justice system is built on a long-held foundation that each side must be given a fair chance to play the game at trial. Does that mean trial is the only way in which your case will be resolved? NO!

Most cases settle before trial. Many parties will attend a mediation with a retired judge and that judge will help broker a deal. However, any settlement reached at mediation is voluntary. Let me repeat that: mediation settlements are voluntary. That means the result is not based on a forced-decision by the mediator. The mediator is not going to decide if you are right or wrong. They are simply going to help you reach a voluntary resolution that allows the parties to end the lawsuit and get on with their lives.

Hopefully, you now understand why the judge can’t just decide the case in your favor right off the bat. It takes time, perseverance, and resilience to get through a trust or will lawsuit. And that’s why you need a good law firm to help guide you through the process. We know that sounds self-serving, but it’s also true.