After a person dies, a family member or a beneficiary of a prior will may bring a proceeding to contest their will.
Reasons to contest a will
There are many reasons why someone contests a will. The most common reason is when a person or entity believes that they have a valid legal claim to a portion or all of the decedent’s probate assets or they have been treated unfairly. Claims may be based upon the plaintiff’s personal, family or business relationship, arrangement or legal contract. Other reasons to contest a will may be that it was invalid because it was signed under duress, coercion, fraud, improperly signed, the testator lacked mental capacity at the time he or she made the will or there was a breach of fiduciary duty resulting in a financial loss or potential loss to the beneficiaries and other interested parties to the estate.
Typically, family members are the persons who most often contest a will. Disputes may arise under a number of situations. For example, there may have been a falling out between the testator and one or more of their children or other family member, and the heir may feel they have been unjustly treated. A caregiver may have influenced the testator to eliminate another family member or beneficiary from the will. Or the testator may have left all the testator’s assets to a current spouse, failing to provide for an ex-spouse or children from a prior marriage. There may be a claim by an illegitimate child of the testator. Two siblings may be fighting over their parent’s estate.
Business associates may end up contesting a will under various shareholder buyout agreements, over business assets, accounts receivable, royalties or minerals claims. A creditor may contest a will or accounting. Many times people leave their estate assets or a portion of their estate assets to various charitable organizations. An organization may believe they have a valid claim to contest the will if they are a beneficiary of a prior will and believe that the new will is invalid.
New York probate and inheritance laws are complex. Most people do not understand how a probate process works and under what circumstances they can contest a will. Many times, a will contest can be avoided if the parties are willing to communicate with each other and find a resolution. However, emotions can run high after the loss of a loved one and sometimes the parties need legal expertise and assistance. A knowledgeable and experienced New York Probate Attorney can give you legal advice, discuss your legal remedies and other options as well as represent your interests in a will contest matter to help you resolve the matter expeditiously and fairly.
If you need help with a probate or estate administration matter, call our New York estate attorney at (212) 233-1233.