A recent case decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals serves as a reminder that probate court litigation often differs procedurally from other types of litigation. So, when faced with a will contest or other probate proceeding, it’s often best to consult with someone who specializes in that type of fiduciary litigation.
In In re: Estate of Loyd, one of the heirs of Virginia Childs Loyd, Jack, tried to object to a petition to probate the will on the grounds of undue influence. The trial court dismissed Jack’s caveat as untimely and the appellate court agreed.
After the petition to probate the will was filed, the probate court entered an order requiring certain of the heirs, including Jack, to file any objections to the petition within 13 days or within 10 days from the date of receipt as shown on a certified or registered mail return receipt. A copy of the petition was delivered to Jack on April 9, 2012, and on April 23, 2012, Jack filed his caveat. The executor sought to dismiss Jack’s caveat as untimely and it was dismissed because the deadline for Jack to file an objection was April 19, 2012.
This is a very short amount of time in which to answer and the court was unpersuaded by Jack’s argument that he was away from his residence from April 7 through April 18 on overseas business and had no actual knowledge of the petition until April 19. He promptly filed his caveat as soon as he could on April 23. Alas, Jack still could have opened his default as of right within 15 days of April 19, but he did not. Accordingly, he was barred from challenging the will.