Let’s say that you are a beneficiary in someone else’s will in Illinois, or at least, that you expect to be a beneficiary. The time comes to administer the estate, and you come to find that in fact, you have been left out of the will, or else, what you actually stand to inherit is much less than what you thought you would inherit. You are sure there are grounds to challenge the will. Perhaps the deceased was not mentally competent to write or alter the will when it was created. Perhaps someone else exerted unfair influence or coercion over the deceased, causing him or her to alter the will, to leave you out of it.
Either way, there are grounds, you believe, to challenge the will. But, how much will your will challenge cost?
Challenging a will is much like any other kind of lawsuit. The main expense will be your attorney’s fees. And, what those fees are, will depend on how much, how often, and how long, the parties fight. Unlike many other areas of the law, however, in probate court, the winner of the case doesn’t automatically get to have their expenses and attorney’s fees paid back by the other (losing) side.
In some cases, a probate lawyer that helps you challenge a will or estate plan will work on contingency. This means that the lawyer will not charge you as the case is going on, but rather, will take a percentage of whatever it is that you win (that is, inherit), if you win. However, this usually only happens when your chances of winning are high, and the amount that you stand to win is significant.
Outside of that, your lawyer will charge you by the hour. The lawyer may require an initial retainer deposit of between $3,000-$10,000, depending on the complexity of the case.
Outside of attorneys fees, there may be other expenses, things such as court reporters, expert witness fees, mediator fees, filing fees, appraisers, or other expenses, which vary depending on the issues in your particular case.
It then would become an economic decision for both you, and the estate that you are challenging, as the estate will also have to pay a lawyer, often out of the proceeds of the estate. Is it worth, for example, $50,000 in possible attorney fees, if you win your case, and inherit a million dollars? Likely, the answer is yes. But if you are fighting over $60,000, probably not.
There are ways to lower the expense. For parties that are reasonable, they may be able to go to mediation, and quickly settle the case in a way that benefits all parties while minimizing attorney’s fees and costs.
Contact your Chicago estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd at (847) 325-5559. The Chicago contested estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd can help you see if you have a valid claim to challenge a will or estate plan.