When you are faced with a California Trust or Will lawsuit, you have to respond. But what does a response look like? How much do you have to say and what effect does your response have on your case?
Responses are funny things. Sometime a Judge may read the response prior to your next hearing and have some comments on the facts involved. Sometimes they will not do so. In theory, everything you state in a response is hearsay and cannot be used as evidence by the Court. In practice, that is usually the case, but not always.
At times, a response is never reviewed by the judge, and the case simply progresses to trial where only the evidence presented in the courtroom is considered. Other times, the response is read and affects any number of preliminary rulings by the court.
As a result, your response needs to be prepared to give enough details to help, when needed. But your response should not give too much detail either, in the event facts or evidence changes over time as discovery is conducted. Sometimes a favorable fact becomes hard to prove if witnesses or documents fail to support the presumed fact. For that reason, you do not necessarily want to state every presumed fact at the outset of your case. Just state what you know. If you do not know a fact, but believe it to be true, then you can say that.
Remember that responses must be verified under penalty of perjury—so don’t lie in your response. You want the facts contained in your response to be as truthful as possible. But every case has a few unknown or obscure facts that must be ascertained or clarified along the way.
In all, your response should be short and to the point. The term “short” being relative to the complexity of your case. Don’t worry about leaving something out because you will have plenty of opportunity to fill in the missing information at time of trial.