Expert Witnesses In Will Contests
by Russell Aldrich | March 8, 2023
In a will contest, expert witnesses can provide valuable information and testimony to support a party’s position. Their expertise helps the court understand complex issues and make informed decisions. The type of expert witnesses used in a will contest will depend on the specific circumstances and issues of the case. Some common types of expert witnesses used in will contests include:
- Medical professionals. Psychiatrists, psychologists, or geriatricians may be called upon to provide testimony regarding the mental capacity of the testator (the person who created the will) at the time the will was executed. These experts can offer opinions on whether the testator suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairments that might have affected their ability to understand and execute the will.
- Handwriting experts. In cases where the validity of a signature on the will is in question, handwriting experts can analyze the testator’s handwriting and signature to determine whether the will is authentic or a forgery.
- Estate planning attorneys. Experienced estate planning attorneys can provide testimony on the standard practices in drafting wills, explaining legal terminology, and identifying potential irregularities or inconsistencies in the will that may suggest undue influence, duress, or fraud.
- Financial experts. Forensic accountants or financial analysts can help trace the flow of assets, identify unusual transactions, and uncover signs of financial exploitation or mismanagement in relation to the testator’s estate.
- Appraisers and valuators. Real estate appraisers, art or antique appraisers, and business valuators can provide expert opinions on the value of estate assets, which can be relevant in cases where the distribution of the estate is in dispute or when the value of assets is a key issue in the case.
- Elder care specialists. Geriatric care managers, social workers, or elder care experts can provide insights into the testator’s living conditions, care needs, and vulnerability to exploitation or undue influence at the time the will was executed.
The specific expert witnesses needed in a will contest will depend on the issues being contested and the facts of the case. An experienced probate litigation attorney can help determine which experts are appropriate for a particular will contest and guide the process of engaging and preparing these experts for trial or settlement negotiations.