If you are involved in a Probate dispute, you may be asked to give a deposition in the case. An oral deposition is sworn testimony provided by a witness or other party to a case, but it’s done outside of the courtroom. Here’s a brief overview of the process with some useful tips, so you know what to expect and how to be prepared if you are called upon to provide a deposition in a probate case:
In general, you should behave the same way you would in a courtroom in front of a judge. Depositions may seem less formal than a trial, but they are part of the litigation process and you should treat it seriously.
- Dress nicely and be on time.
- Be calm and respectful to everyone involved.
Be prepared. Make sure you have reviewed everything with your attorney ahead of time so there are no surprises. Read over any documents or statements provided previously to familiarize yourself with things you may be asked about.
You will be sworn in and placed under oath before you begin. This means you must tell the truth. But that doesn’t mean this is the time to tell every detail of your side of the story – it just means that you answer the questions you are asked honestly.
- Take your time and think about your answer carefully – there’s no hurry.
- Don’t embellish or elaborate – just state the facts in the clearest and simplest way possible. If they need more details, they will tell you.
- Don’t speculate or guess. If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
- If you’re not sure you understand the question, don’t assume – ask for clarification.
Don’t interrupt the attorneys or anyone else when they are speaking. There will be a court reporter recording everything and interruptions make it hard for the record to be clear. Attorneys for both sides will be at the deposition. Objections are limited by the rules so your attorney can’t object “willy nilly,” however, your attorney will be following the questions carefully to analyze and learn about the other side’s strategies for the case.
- Don’t debate or argue with the attorney from the other side. That’s your attorney’s job.
- Don’t try to convince or persuade anyone. Just answer the questions and let your attorney make the case when the time is right.
- If you get confused or uncomfortable, ask for a break to speak with your attorney. Don’t try to talk to him during the questioning.
Depositions are an efficient way to move a probate case along, so don’t be afraid to participate. Rely on your attorney for guidance and remember to stick to the facts, and you should do fine.