Prior to filing objections to the validity of a decedent’s will, we conduct a thorough investigation into the facts of the case. This requires us to examine the estate case file, the fiduciary’s records, and the decedent’s personal papers and communications. We review the drafting attorney’s work product, criticize it, and try to tear it apart. At the end of the day, our goal is to provide our clients with answers and advice about whether to file objections.
In one particular case, we were confronted with a situation where the decedent disinherited his family members and left the bulk of his estate to someone he had met on the internet and knew for a very short period of time. Sadly, the decedent ended up committing suicide shortly after.
We conducted a very thorough investigation into the facts of this case to prepare for the 1404 exam. We first served an extensive document demand on the estate. We requested items such as the estate’s case file and the decedent’s medical records, financial information, and written communications. As in every case, we were particularly interested in communications between and among the decedent, the drafting attorney, the fiduciary, and the beneficiaries.
We also served subpoenas on third party entities to obtain records, including the decedent’s phone records, emails, internet dating messages, and social media communications. We were also able to obtain the case file of the police investigation into the decedent’s suicide.
In this case, we went a step further than we normally do. We hired a computer forensic examiner to examine the decedent’s computer. As a result, we were able to view snapshots of emails and messages, as well as numerous word documents, PDFs and photographs that were located on the computer. We were also able to view a list of the internet sites the decedent visited, the internet searches he conducted, and the places he may have driven based the addresses he typed into Google maps.
By the time we got to the 1404 exam, we had a wealth of information to use for cross examination.