The Law Offices of Nigel Burns



phone 213-687-8080

Los angeles            Orange County Glendale/Montrose

Successful Aggressive Trustworthy

trust litigation and probate litigation


Probate litigation is an area of the law that deals with disputes over the estate of a person who has passed away.  Oftentimes estate disputes are handled in probate court.  The probate court handles the process of transferring legal title of property from the estate of a person who has passed away to his or her beneficiaries.  While some cases make it through the probate procedure smoothly, disputes often arise.  If find yourself involved with in a dispute over the estate of someone who has passed, the best path to assure that your legal rights are protected is through an experienced attorney.


The downside with probate is that it can be a procedural nightmare, even for attorneys, if they are inexperienced in handling probate cases.  The good thing about probate is that in certain circumstances it can be avoided.  For instance, when a deceased person leaves all of his assets in a living trust, the trust and any disputes regarding it avoid probate.  This is also true for life insurance, which escapes the probates courts.  And finally, if a person leaves an estate of less than $150,000, California provides “simplified procedures for transferring the property.  However, regardless of whether your estate dispute is settled in probate court or not, the best path to assure that your legal rights are protected is through an experienced attorney

At the Law Offices of Nigel Burns our attorneys are well versed in the Probate Code, and are experienced in litigating in probate court.  A large part of our practice is dedicated to elder law, family law, and business litigation, three areas of the law where probate disputes are common.  As a result, our attorneys have gained extensive experience with probate court procedures, and have consistently obtained favorable results for our clients.  If you believe that your legal dispute may involve a person who is deceased, call our law office today; initial consultations over the phone are free!

Common Trust and Probate Disputes
The following are common legal disputes involving trusts, wills, estates and probate litigation:
·      Financial Elder Abuse
·      Will Contests
·      Trust Contests
·      Undue Influence Claims
·      Beneficiary claims
·      Breach of fiduciary duty
·      Estate Mismanagement
·      Family Disputes
·      Questions Regarding the Validity of a Will
·      Trustees’/Executors’ Accounts
·      Trustee removal
·      Breach of Contract and Fraud Claims

What Are Some of the Differences in Probate Court
As we mentioned, California Probate Courts have their own set of rules and procedures, in addition to the general California Rules of Civil Procedures.  Here are a few of the unique aspects of Probate Court.


  • No Jury Trials
In probate court, a judge, rather than a jury hears disputes; aside from some elder abure matters and conservatorship proceedings.  the benefit of having a judges decide your case is twofold.  First, judges are generally very knowledgeable.  Second, the remedies judges can issue and their overall discretion are limited under State law.  The downside to having judicial resolution, is that judges are very sophisticated, and tend to have very little patience for litigants who do not follow probate court procedures.

  • No Contest Clauses
This clause is commonly found in wills, and is meant to deter unnecessary litigation and frivolous lawsuits.  the way it works is that if someone challenges a will, and the court rules against them, and rules that their claim was not made in good faith, they are essentially excluded from the will altogether; the court treats them as deceased.

  • Forms, Deadlines, and more Forms
Another important difference with Probate Court is the heavy, some would say excessive, use of judicial counsel forms, and unique deadlines.  Part of the complication here, is that the probate courts are governed by several sets of laws, including the Probate Code, Local Rules, and Code of Civil Procedure.  To complicate matters further, judges seldom have patience for litigants who are unfamiliar with the court's procedures.  That is why it is important to have an experienced attorney, if you are involved in a probate dispute.