When a will is being contested, the ultimate outcome is not always a judgment of some sort. It is actually relatively common for the parties to settle their differences and enter into a stipulation. This would mean that all the parties come to a legally binding agreement where they decide to agree on either certain aspects, or even all, of the case.
Even though a New York City estate attorney may spend hours negotiating with opposing counsel to some up with a stipulation that is best for his or her client, sometimes after the agreement is signed, one party or the other may decide that they want to get it overturned. There could be countless reasons behind wanting to do this, but actually being able to accomplish it is something else entirely.
As far as the courts are concerned when it comes to stipulations in Surrogate’s Court, or any court in New York for that matter, if the parties enter into a deal to settle a case, it is pretty final. This is the case even if one party discovers that the deal may not be great for them later on or simply do not agree with it anymore. The standards for getting a stipulation overturned are much higher than that.
In order to be overturned, a stipulation must fall under one of only a few situations. For example, if there was fraud on the part of one party when coming up with the agreement, such as that party actively hiding the existence of stocks owned by the decedent from the other party, that is a situation where the stipulation may be overturned. Another example would be if the parties made a mutual mistake, for example if they agree to let one party have a ring, both believing it was simply a costume piece and it ends up being Tiffany. Collusion, or the secret cooperation of some parties with the specific purpose of cheating the other, is another way to get a stipulation overturned.
Unconscionability is another thing that may get a stipulation overturned. That would mean that the stipulation is unfair to one party, but in an extreme way that shows that there was an abuse of power by one party in the negotiation of the terms of the contract. Usually there needs to be a pretty obvious imbalance in the fairness factor for the courts to overturn a stipulation based on unconscionability.
What would not get a stipulation overturned is simply being ignorant of the scope of the value of an estate, such as believing a house was worth $100,000 without it being appraised when it was actually worth $125,000, or deciding that they agreement wasn’t so far after all later on down the line.
If you would like to consult with a New York City estate attorney about overturning a stipulation, give us a call at (212) 233-1233.