For a will to work, it has to first be approved by New York Surrogate’s Court. If you will be able to prove that a New York will is a result of fraud, then it will be possible to have the court deny approval, resulting in the fraudulent will being set aside.
fraud (noun): wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. Synonyms: fraudulence, cheating, swindling, embezzlement, deceit, deception, double-dealing
When fraud, it is usually the result of a close and trusting relationship between the person signing the fraudulent will and the person who is defrauding them.
Will fraud is also usually the result of the victim’s diminished mental capacity. A victim of will fraud can be vulnerable due to a mental and physical condition, such as dementia or mental illness, be ill, on medications, or even on their death bed pumped full or morphine.
There can be two kinds of fraud when it comes to a New York will: fraud in factum and fraud in the inducement.
Fraud in Factum – lying to the person who made the will, telling them that they’re signing something else. “Here Edith, sign this bill, or lease, or deed, or authorization, etc.” The person is not even aware that what they are signing is their will. The document slipped to them without their knowledge.
Fraud in the Inducement – someone lying about something else other than the actual will. For example, a child can tell their parent that leaving their entire estate to them and excluding their other children is what they need to do for tax or protection purposes. Or, a child can tell their parent that the parent’s other children are taking their money or are against them.
Fraudulent concealment occurs when the person accused of fraud hides information from the person who made the will. For example, hiding the fact that their children are trying to get in touch with an elderly parent.
Fraud in a New York will is usually addressed in civil court. Like many white collar crimes, fraud is difficult to prove and is therefore not usually addressed by the criminal justice system.
When we are discussing will fraud here, we mean actual fraud. If there is a question of a will being invalid for any other reason, see our article “winning a will contest.” It talks about fraud as well as other grounds for challenging a will, such as mental incapacity, undue influence, forgery, revocation and lack of due execution.
Whether you are accused of defrauding the estate or think that there is a fraudulent will that is diminishing your interest in an estate, you have the right to a fair trial before New York Surrogate’s Court. Your chances of winning a New York will fraud case greatly increase when you are represented by a competent and experienced New York estate lawyer will a track record of success in estate litigation.
The author of this article, Albert Goodwin, Esq. is a New York estate attorney who is in practice since 2008. He has experience litigating will fraud cases and is available for a consultation. He can be reached at (212) 233-1233.