and Your Family
Long Island Will Challenge Lawyer
A will is supposed to memorialize the wishes of the testator as to how he (or she) wants his estate distributed once he passes a way. Because of the stakes involved, New York law has strict requirements for executing a will to ensure that a will is not fraudulent. A will challenge, also called a will contest, occurs when someone files an objection to a will, arguing that it is not in fact a reflection of the testator’s wishes and should be thrown out as invalid. The stakes are high in a will contest because if a will is found to be invalid, it will not be admitted to probate. If you have reasons to believe that the will of a loved one is fraudulent, it is important that you contact an experienced Long Island will challenge lawyer to discuss your concerns.Standing to challenge a will
In New York, will contest can only be brought by someone with standing. Someone has standing if they have a financial interest in the outcome of the challenge. For example, if a person would inherit a large part of the decedent’s estate if the will was found invalid then that person would have standing to object to the validity of the will.
- Legal heirs. A will contest could be brought by someone who would have inherited, or would have inherited more if there was not a will. Such a person who be the decedent’s next of kin or legal heir under New York’s rules of intestate succession. For example, June wrote a will that left her son 80% of her estate and her daughter 20%. The daughter would have standing to challenge the will because under New York’s rules of intestate succession, if June had not left a will, each child would interest 50% of her estate. Thus, the daughter would be entitled to a larger share in the absence of a will.
- Prior will beneficiary. If someone was named a beneficiary under a prior will and not under the current will, that person would have standing to object to the validity of the current will. For example, Pearl left a nonprofit organization her house in a will. Ten years later she wrote a new will and left the nonprofit organization nothing. The nonprofit would have standing to challenge the new will.
The reasons for challenging a will are numerous and varied. However, most frequently the underlying reason that someone challenges the validity of a will is because he (or she) is upset and believes that he should be a beneficiary or because he believes that he should receive a greater share of the estate than the will provides. Regardless of being upset about the terms of a will, as an experienced will challenge attorney in Long Island will explain, the court will entertain a will challenge only if the objections is based on valid legal grounds. Legal grounds include:
- Lack of testamentary capacity. One of the most common grounds is the testator did not have the required testamentary capacity to execute a will. This means that the testator was too young when he or she signed the will, as New York law requires a testator to be at least 18 years old. Lack of testamentary capacity may also mean that the testator was mentally ill or for some other reason incapable of understanding the process of making a will.
- Undue influence, duress, or fraud. If the testator executed a will because someone else tricked or bullied him or her into making the will, the will would not be valid. Undue influence or duress typically occurs when the testator is vulnerable and is dependent on a person who is manipulative.
- Forgery. Evidence that the will is not authentic, that signatures of the testator or witnesses are forged would lead to the court declaring the will to be invalid.
- Improper execution. For a will to be valid, it must be executed that is required by New York law. This means that the testator must sign it and there must be at least 2 witnesses.
If you suspect that the will of a loved one is invalid, discuss your concerns with an experienced Long Island will challenge attorney, as objecting to a will can be complicated and prevailing involves assembling sufficient evidence to support your suspicions.No contest clause
A no contest clause is a term in a will that requires a beneficiary to forfeit his (or her) testamentary gift if he contests the will. The purpose of such a clause is to discourage will contests that can be time-consuming and costly to an estate. Such clauses generally are enforceable in New York. They are not enforceable against minors or incompetents. In addition, the law does allow those with objections to conduct some preliminary discovery related to a possible challenge without risking forfeiting a testamentary gift. Such a clause would have no effect on someone who is not a beneficiary in the will to which he or she is objecting.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
If you are concerned that the will of a loved one is not valid, it is important that you discuss your concerns with an experienced will challenge attorney serving Long Island. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has decades of experience representing beneficiaries, heirs, and other interested parties in estate litigation such as will challenges and other disputes. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Long Island, Queens, Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.