That’s a loaded question.  It all depends on how the asset you are seeking to recover was titled.  Even though you, and probably your parent, thought that all assets were in one basket and you can simply file one document to get what is rightfully yours, you are mistaken (welcome to Trust and Will law—be prepared for confusion).  There are many ways in which assets can be titled so as to avoid the probate process.  Sounds like a good idea, but it makes lawsuits in this area a real mess.

For example, if you have an asset titled ONLY in a decedent’s name (with no one else on title or titled joint as “tenants-in-common”), then that asset falls to the probate estate and the Will controls.  If the Will is not favorable to you, then you have to file a Will contest.

If an asset is held in joint tenancy, then the asset passes automatically to the surviving joint tenant and the Will is meaningless.  If you want to contest that arrangement then you either have to challenge the original account set up or you have to bring a petition in the decedent’s probate estate and claim that it was not his intention to leave the asset to the surviving joint tenant (a claim you are required by law to prove by the higher standard of “clear and convincing” evidence).

If the assets are in a Trust, then you have to file a Trust contest, which is different from a probate Will contest.  With a Trust contest, you have to challenge either the Trust creation or the creation of a Trust amendment if one of the amendments does not favor you.

And if you have some assets in each of these different types of titling, then you have to file each of these different petitions.  It is not unusual to have three or four different petitions filed in a single case.  It can be a complicated affair and it’s easy to file the wrong claim in the wrong way and then lose out on challenging the asset you want to reclaim.

The bottom line: plan out your attack carefully.  You may only have one chance to make things right.