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Can I File A Will Contest On A Contingency Fee Basis?

by Russell Aldrich | March 15, 2023

In a contingency fee arrangement, an attorney agrees to represent a client without requiring upfront payment. Instead, the attorney will receive a percentage of any recovery obtained through the case, usually between 33 and 40%. If the case is unsuccessful and no recovery is obtained, the attorney typically does not receive any fee (although in some circumstances the client might still be responsible for costs and expenses).

In a will contest, a good contingency fee case typically has the following characteristics:

  • Strong merits. A case with strong legal grounds for disputing the validity of the will or contesting the distribution of assets has a higher likelihood of success. Cases involving undue influence, fraud, lack of testamentary capacity, or forgery often make for better contingency fee arrangements.
  • Significant assets at stake. Contingency fee arrangements are more attractive for attorneys when the estate in question has substantial assets. Since the attorney’s fee is based on a percentage of the recovery, a larger estate increases the potential payout for the attorney.
  • Clear evidence. A case with strong, clear, and compelling evidence supporting the claim is more likely to be successful. This may include witness testimony, documentation, or expert opinions that support the grounds for contesting the will.
  • High likelihood of recovery. Cases where it is more probable that the client will recover assets, whether through a favorable judgment or settlement, are more attractive for contingency fee arrangements. Attorneys may be more willing to accept these cases because of the higher likelihood of receiving a fee.
  • Favorable legal environment. The specific laws and procedures governing will contests in the relevant jurisdiction can impact the likelihood of success. A case in a jurisdiction with favorable laws and a history of successful will contests might be more attractive for a contingency fee arrangement.

It’s important to remember that each case is unique, and the decision to enter into a contingency fee arrangement will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the attorney’s assessment of its merits. If you are considering a will contest, it’s best to consult an experienced probate litigation attorney to discuss your case and explore your options for representation.