The cost of probate can quickly begin climbing – with just one bill from one expert. A case in New England is a prime example of one reason probate avoidance might be the best strategy.
An elderly New Hampshire woman met an on-duty police officer and decided to rewrite her will to include him, creating rising costs for expert testimony as well as challenges from the community.
Geraldine Webber's case, which has been followed closely by estate planning blogs, was initiated when she decided to rewrite her will and leave police officer Aaron Goodwin, a much younger man with a wife and children, a $2 million inheritance.
The will was challenged by a group of Webber's friends, two hospitals, a city and a school on the basis that Goodwin had unduly influenced and taken advantage of her. The challengers won the case.
However, as Seacoast Online reports in "Doc charged $70K for losing testimony in cop's inheritance case," testimony from one witness came at a steep cost for the estate.
A doctor, who was hired by the estate to serve as an expert witness, concluded that Webber was competent and not suffering from dementia at the time she signed the will.
The doctor, who reached his conclusion by reviewing medical records and visiting Webber's home, had never met her. For his services to the losing case he is asking to be paid $70,120 by the estate. A judge will have to approve the amount.
That is how probate can get so expensive.
The testimony of one expert witness for the losing side can cost $70,000. Imagine if there had been other expert witnesses and not just the one.
The entire bill may not be approved by the court but the doctor giving the expert testimony will most definitely result in a fee being paid out from the estate.
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Reference: Seacoast Online (Nov. 4, 2015) "Doc charged $70K for losing testimony in cop's inheritance case,"