Staten Island Consequences of a Will Contest
A will is one of the most important estate planning documents. It is a way for a testator to memorialize his (or her) final wishes as to what should happen to his assets once he passes away. There is great flexibility as to what a testator can direct in his will. The testator can name an executor. The executor is the person responsible for managing the estate once the testator passes away and ultimately distributing the assets to the testator’s beneficiaries. Unfortunately, there are instances when a will does not indeed reflect the wishes of the testator. For example, if a will would not be valid if it was execute it is the testator lacked testamentary capacity, or if fraud was involved in the will. If you are considering a will contest, or if you are an interested party in a will contest, it is important that you are represented by an experienced and skilled Staten Island will contest lawyer in order to ensure that your legal rights are protected.Grounds for a Will Contest
In New York a will can be contested for two main reasons: lack of testamentary capacity, and undue influence.
Lack of testamentary capacity. Under New York law, in order for a will to be valid the testator, which is the person making the will, must have had testamentary capacity at the time the will was executed. This means that the testator must have been at least 18-years old at the time the will was executed. The other requirement for testamentary capacity is that the testator had the mental capacity to make a will. Mental capacity means that the testator must have understood what it means to make a will, must have had a general idea of the extent and value of his estate, and must have understood who his relatives were. A common basis for a will challenge based on lack of testamentary capacity is that the testator suffered from a cognitive impairment at a time he executed the will. As a Staten Island will contest lawyer will explain, in order to invalidate a will based on a lack of testamentary capacity you must have evidence to support the claim.
Undue influence. Undue influence is a broad term that describes a number of scenarios in which a will was made based on some sort of fraud. Undue influence can mean that someone manipulated a vulnerable testator into making a will that the testator would not have otherwise made. Another example of undue influence would be where someone forced a testator to make a will that he would not have otherwise made by making threats or actually physically harming the testator. In addition, if fraud was used such as forgery, then the will would be invalid.Standing to Contest the Will
In order to contest the will you must have legal standing to do so. Legal standing means that you are an interested party because you have an immediate, direct financial interest in the will. Generally speaking, those who have legal standing are only beneficiaries and heirs. Beneficiaries are those who are specifically named in the will such as family members, friends, or nonprofit organizations. Heirs are those who would have the legal right to inherit the decedent’s assets in the absence of a valid will. As a will contest attorney in Staten Island will explain, if you lack legal standing to contest a will, the judge in the New York probate court will not hear your petition to contest the will. If you believe you have grounds for a will challenge but you are unsure as to whether or not you have legal standing, discuss your concerns with an attorney.Consequences of a Will Contest
The possible consequences of a will contest include that the probate court judge in New York will declare that the will is completely invalid. As a result, the court will see if there is a prior will. If there is a prior valid will, the court will probate that will. If there is not a prior valid will, the court will distribute the testator’s assets according to the rules of intestate succession.
Another possible consequence of a will contest is that the probate court judge will invalidate only the portions of the will that are fraudulent. For example, if it is determined that a beneficiary illegally influenced the testator to leave him a house, the judge may declare that portion of the will to be invalid, but the rest of the will would remain valid.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
If you believe that the will of a loved one is invalid due to lack of testamentary capacity, or due to undue influence, contact an experienced will contest serving Staten Island at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss your concerns. The potential consequence of a will contest is the invalidating of the will. We have years of experience representing executors, beneficiaries, and heirs in disputes related to wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other estate documents. 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: Staten Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Suffolk County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, and Westchester County.