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Queens Will Challenge

A will challenge occurs when someone believes that will is not valid and files an objection with the New York Surrogate’s Court. Will challenges are typically filed by individuals who have been disinherited, or by someone who had expected to receive a more generous testamentary gift. There are a number of reasons why someone believes that a will is a sham including lack of mental capacity, duress, forgery, undue influence, and lack of proper execution. New York has specific rules about who can challenge a will, the reasons someone a can challenge a will, and the process for challenging a will. To learn more about probate and the will contest process in New York, contact an experienced Queens will challenge lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.

Standing to challenge a will

In New York, only certain individuals have the legal right to file a formal object to a will. There may be a number of people who feel there are valid reasons to object to the validity of a will. However, only those who have a true interest in the will have standing to file an objection. Such people generally fall into two categories: those who would have more if the testator died without a will and those who would have received more under a prior will.

Those who would inherit more if the testator died intestate would include the decedent’s legal heirs under the rules of intestate succession. The decedent’s surviving spouse and children are first in line to receive a decedent’s estate. In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, legal heirs include parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. These individuals would have standing to object in a will because if the will is indeed invalid, then the decedent’s legal heirs would be entitled to inherit the estate.

Those who would have inherited more under a prior will also have standing to object to a will. A sham will sometimes replaces a prior, valid will. Thus, those who are receive nothing under a will, or receive less, have standing to object as they have a financial interest in the outcome of the will contest.

If you have questions about whether you have legal standing to challenge a will, contact an experienced Queens will challenge lawyer.

Grounds for a will challenge

Another requirement for challenging a will is that you must have a good reason. It must be more than you think the will is unfair or that the decedent led you to believe that you would receive more. Legal grounds include:

  • Lack of mental capacity. A testator must have the mental to capacity to make a will, otherwise it is not valid. An objector must have evidence that the testator lacked the mental capacity to make a will at the time the will was executed.
  • Undue influence. If the testator executed a will because he or she was under illegally influenced the testator to do so, then the will would not be valid. Typically, undue influence exists when a vulnerable testator is encouraged to change a will or make a new will that is favorable to the influencer.
  • Fraud. If a testator was induced by fraudulent information to make a will, the will would be invalid.
  • Duress. If the testator was forced to execute a will, the will would not be valid.
  • 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. If a will was not executed in the manner required by New York’s Estate, Powers, and Trusts law, then the Surrogate’s Court my declare it to be invalid. The will must be in writing, signed by the testator at the end, witnessed by at least two people, and signed by the witnesses.

If you suspect that the will of a loved one is a sham, discuss your concerns with an experienced will challenge attorney in Queens.

Process for challenging a will

If you are an interested party and would like to contest a will, you must file a objection to probate in the Surrogate’s Court. You must file your objection in the manner required by the Surrogate’s Court and you must stick to deadlines required by the court. Failure to do some may result in the court refusing to hear your objections.

If your will challenge is successful, the court may throw out the will and either probate a prior valid will, or handle the estate based on the rules of intestate succession.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

A challenge to a will can be both emotional and legally complicated. It is important to have a will challenge attorney serving Queens who will represent your interests with skill and compassion. 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 contests. 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: Queens, Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.

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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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