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Long Island Probate Litigation

A will is a document that a testator writes to define how his (or her) property is to be disposed of once he passes away. However, the process of distributing assets based on the terms of a will is not quick and can be complicated. Before assets can be distributed, the will must be probated. Probate is a process in the New York Surrogate’s Court that involves the will being proved, the executor being appointed, and the estate managed. Sometimes disputes develop during probate that must be settled before the decedent’s estate can be closed. If you are an interested party involved in an estate dispute, contact an experienced Long Island probate litigation lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who will make sure that your legal interests are protected.

Common types of probate litigation

The death of a loved one is a difficult and emotional time. This, coupled with sometimes challenging family relationships can lead to disputes during probate that are not easily resolved. Some of the more common reasons for estate disputes include:

Disputes involving the executor. The executor’s job can be tough. He (or she) is responsible for managing the estate and distributing assets. This can be challenging if the estate is large, complex. It can also be challenging if there are several beneficiaries or if the beneficiaries do not get along. Even though the will spells out how the estate should be distributed, executors often have discretion related to the management of the estate. This may lead to anger and distrust toward the executor and ultimately probate litigation. Claims against the executor typically involve accusations of breach of fiduciary duty, mismanagement of estate assets, or self-dealing. If you are an interested party and are concern that the executor of a loved one’s estate is acting improperly, discuss your concerns with an experienced Long Island probate litigation concerns who will walk you through your legal options.

Undue influence. A will is supposed to reflect the true wishes of the testator. If there is evidence that it is not, then it may be thrown out by the Surrogate’s Court judge. While there are several reasons that someone may challenge the validity of a will, such as duress and lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence is one of the more common reasons.

Undue influence typically applies to a situation in which the testator is in some say vulnerable. A person who is in a particularly persuasive position disrupts the testator’s relationships with family members or close friends. As a result, the testator makes a will that leaves out the loved ones that he would have included, and instead leaves all or a significant portion of his estate to the influencer. A testator may be vulnerable because he is in a frail condition and has come to depend on the influencer for basic needs such as meals, toileting, bathing, and medication.

Undue influence is more than someone requesting to be left property in the testator’s will. It is also more than a busybody constantly talking negatively about other family members. The actions of the influencer must rise to the level of the type of undue influence that results in the testator being alienated from loved ones and as a result fails to leave property to those who it would be logical for him to leave part of his estate. If you suspect that the will of a loved one resulted from the undue influence, contact a probate litigation attorney in Long Island to discuss the process for filing a will challenge.

Unfair dispositions. Another common cause for disputes during probate is perceived unfair distributions. Even though the will may be very clear, family members may be upset with what was left to them compared to what was left to another beneficiary. This may lead to challenges to the validity of the will, or accusations of fraud against the executor or other beneficiaries. Even if the claims are baseless, such claims can lead to extended litigation causing delays in the distribution of the will and a drain on estate assets.

Absence of a will

If the decedent passed away without leaving a will, the estate must still go through a process similar to probate called estate administration. While there would be no will to challenge, there would still be opportunity for heirs to be upset about how the estate administrator manages the estate. Even though asset distribution would be based on the New York’s intestate succession statute, it is not unusual for there to still be squabbles over asset distribution

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

The administration of an estate will take at least 7 months. Disputes, if not resolved quickly, will prolong the process and cause a delay in the distribution of estate property. If you are involved in an estate dispute, it is important that you are represented by an experienced probate litigation attorney serving Long Island. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates is has years of experiencing representing executors, beneficiaries, heirs, and other interested parties in estate disputes. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester County.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
Mr. Bilkis handled both my father and mother's estate issues through very difficult times he was compassionate kind and understanding. In fact the whole firm showed great empathy. Despite the emotional hard time we were having that quickly and efficiently handle all the matters that were necessary to get us the result we desired. Can't recommend them enough. B.B.
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