and Your Family
Westchester County Will Challenge
A will is an important estate planning document that allows you to pass your assets to your intended beneficiaries, designate a guardian to care for your minor children, and designate the executor who will wind up your estate and distribute its assets according to the terms of your will. The last thing you want is for someone to successfully challenge the validity of your will. A challenge occurs when someone objects to the will, arguing that it does not in fact reflect the wishes of the testator and that it is legally invalid. A will challenge can have a negative affect on probate as it will likely delay an already long process. In addition, any lengthy will challenge or other type of estate litigation will increase the estate expenses. As a result, there will be fewer asset to distribute to the beneficiaries. While it is important that wills that are truly invalid not be probated, it is also important to ensure that valid wills are not subjected to lengthy and expenses will challenges. In order to ensure that your will survives a challenge, it is important to contact a Westchester County will challenge lawyer who will make sure your will reflects your wishes and that is drafted and executed in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of New York law.Standing to challenge a will
Those who have the right to challenge a will include beneficiaries and heirs.
- Beneficiaries. A beneficiary is a person or an entity that is named in a will as a beneficiary. Typically beneficiaries are close family members such the surviving spouse, children, siblings, or parents, but can also include extended family and non-family. An entity such as a charity or a school can also be the beneficiary of a will. Beneficiaries who have the right to challenge a will are not only those mentioned in the will being challenged, but also those mentioned in a prior will.
- Heirs. Heirs include those who would benefit financially in the absence of a will. This would include the surviving spouse and children. In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, other blood relatives would inherit such as parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
If you are unsure as to who has standing to challenge a will, contact an experienced Westchester will challenge attorney.Grounds for will challenge
Even if you have standing to file a will challenge, a will can only be challenged for limited reasons.
- Improper execution. Under New York probate law, in order for a will to be valid, it must be properly executed. It is not enough for the testator to type up a will and sign it. The will must be signed at the end, and there must be 2 witnesses to the signing. If these requirements were not met, then the will is not valid.
- Incapacity. New York requires that the testator have capacity to execute a will. This means that the testator must be at least 18 years old and must not be mentally incapacitated. If the testator suffered from dementia and at the time that the will was executed was experiencing the symptoms of dementia, then the testator would not have had testamentary capacity. As a result the will would be invalid.
- Undue influence. A will would be invalid if someone exerted illegal influence over the testator. This occurs when someone takes an advantage of a position of power or influence. For example, if a testator’s home healthcare worker made a concerted effort to erode the testator’s trust in his or her relatives so that the testator would leave everything to the healthcare worker, the healthcare worker would have exerted undue influence.
As an experienced will challenge attorney in Westchester County will explain, a will challenge will delay probate. Probate will take a minimum of 7 months and often takes up to 10 months. A will challenge will delay the process. Probate cannot proceed until the validity of the will is established. If the will is determined to be invalid, the judge will probate the prior will if any. If there is no prior will, then the estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestate succession.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
Will challenges are very emotional and stressful. They make an already difficult situation even more challenging. If you are involved in a will challenge, it is important that you have a will challenge attorney serving Westchester County on your team. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experienced representing clients in estate planning matters including will contests, and estate litigation. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.