Understanding the California Trust Litigation Process

Whether you are filing a claim or defending yourself against one, rendering a premier California trust litigation attorney essential to navigating the legal process and winning your case. Legal expertise and experience will help you to devise a winning strategy and enter the courtroom with a confident advantage over the opposing parties.

A trust litigation lawyer is your compass, your guide, and a guard committed to protecting you, your reputation, and the integrity of the trust all rolled into one. Read our blog to understand what lies ahead of you during this process.

Our team is composed of the preeminent trust attorneys in Southern California. With decades of experience, they are vetted trust and probate specialists with a verifiable track record of success in probate court. After all, who better to guide you through this process than people who have mastered it? So, without further ado, let’s dive in:

What is the California Trust Litigation Process?

To make the California trust litigation process easier to understand, we’ve broken it up into different stages. Here is our guide to this process:

Investigation & Research

After choosing a California trust litigation attorney, they will review the documents you provide, like correspondence from the trustee, the trust document, or the trust accounting.

Your trust litigation lawyer will gain an understanding of the scope and nature of your case by investigating all facts and circumstances surrounding it.

During this stage, your attorney will discuss the case with you extensively, gather evidence, collect the names and contact information of anyone involved and of potential witnesses, conduct legal research, and determine whether you have a viable case.


Then, a petitioner files a complaint, and the defendant files a response. These formal filings are considered “pleadings,” which are the initiation of proceedings.

At this juncture, you and your trust litigation lawyer have determined your case is worth taking to court, and you will state your claim or present a defense. In other words, this is the formal beginning of litigation.

The court then sets an initial hearing date. If one party does not respond to a complaint within a reasonable timeframe, the petitioner may seek a default judgment.

“During investigation and research, you’re just sitting behind the wheel. The pleading stage is when you turn the key, start the engine, and fire up Google maps,” elaborated Abbas K. Gokal, a partner and practicing California trust litigation attorney at Gokal Law Group with decades of experience in probate courts.


During the hearing, the judge will decide if a case is worth trying in court and allot time for discovery, arguably the most critical stage.

Discovery is when your California trust litigation attorney gathers evidence to support the case. This phase is when each side learns the facts of the case, determines the strength of their case, and strategizes and prepares for things like depositions. Your lawyer will:

  • Ask the opposing parties to answer lists of questions
  • Question witnesses under oath
  • Obtain all relevant documents from the opposing parties
  • File requests for the admission of evidence


Mediation is an opportunity to resolve the issue at hand without a trial. During this phase, an objective third party meets with both parties and their respective California trust litigation attorneys to identify opportunities for a settlement.

Anything you say during mediation is confidential and cannot be used during litigation, and the mediator decides nothing. If this stage creates a compromise that satisfies both sides, you can settle without further litigation.


If your California trust litigation lawyer determines supporting expert witness testimony would be an asset, they will begin witness dispositions and bring in experts who will testify in court. Depositions must end 30 days before trial.

Trial Preparation

As the trial draws closer, your California trust litigation attorney will arrange information and evidence into a compelling, persuasive narrative supporting your claims. Preparation can include:

  • Preparing witnesses to testify
  • Subpoenaing third-party witnesses to appear
  • Deciding which evidence to submit
  • Drafting opening and closing statements
  • Preparing direct and cross-examinations
  • Organizing medical and financial records, deposition transcripts, and discovery responses to align with witness testimony
  • Briefing their client on what to expect


The trial is the culmination of the California trust litigation process. During the trial, both sides present opening statements to provide context and an overview of the case.

After, the party filing a claim presents evidence and witness testimony supporting their claim. This is when the other side presents a rebuttal. Both sides will have the chance to cross-examine witnesses the other put on the stand to testify.

Lastly, each trust litigation lawyer will make its closing argument to sway the judge or jury. Trials can be as brief as a day, but they can also take several weeks. The jury will then start deliberations and return with a verdict.

Expert California Trust Litigation Attorneys

Regardless of what side of California trust litigation you are on when the stakes are raised, working with a premier trust litigation lawyer is the key to your success. Even if you don’t win in court, we can help you navigate the appeals process to capitalize on this opportunity.

At Gokal Law Group, our firm boasts unmatched expertise and experience in trust litigation cases. For an undeniable advantage in the courtroom, call us at (949) 753-9100 or contact us to request a case evaluation.

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