by Ryan McKeen
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a probate court clerk. I was testifying as a witness in a will contest. I asked the clerk if the court is seeing an increase in such disputes. She said, “absolutely”. She said in a given year the court would normally see between 4 and 6 will contests a year. She said they have 6 such hearings this month.
What I’m seeing more and more is that people are willing to fight very hard over even small sums of money even when they’re claims could be called questionable at best. Other lawyers I’ve talked to have told me the same thing that the fights are becoming more intense over almost any sum of money.
In family court, I was talking with a few lawyers and one of them remarked “everything is a hearing right now, everything…and it didn’t used to be this way.”
In some ways, right now may be the most stressful part of our current economic downturn. Unemployment is still high. Credit is either maxed out or unavailable to many. Home equity loans don’t happen any more. Unemployment benefits are running out for some. Many people’s life savings has been depleted and home values aren’t increasing.
I don’t know what the solutions are but I hope things get better. The problem is that people become more desperate they become more willing to fight to get anything. That places an enormous strain on both the legal system and society.
If you want to see the strain this puts on litigants and the system, head down to a family court on a short calendar morning. In some cases there’s no room in the courts and finding a place to stand in the hallways can prove difficult. It’s just one more sign of the times we are in.
What are you noticing out there?