Many people ask me if there is a deadline to contest a will, or if there is a time limit, or if a statute of limitations applies. The best advice I can give is to speak to a New York estate attorney because you definitely DO NOT want to take a chance with deadlines – if you miss one, there is usually no going back. Missing a deadline or blowing a statute of limitations is one of the worst things that can happen in a New York estate. If there is a time limit to bring a claim, you want to stay well within it.
The way a deadline applies in New York will contests is as follows: When a supposed executor to a will files their petition for probate of the will in New York Surrogate’s Court, they have to send notice to the decedent’s heirs, whether or not they are mentioned in the will and no matter what they are getting or not getting under the will.
Most Executors will try to get beneficiaries to sign a waiver allowing them to act as the executor and to admit a will to probate. Beneficiaries who agree with the will, usually beneficiaries who are getting what they feel is an appropriate share of inheritance under the will, have no problems signing the waiver and allowing the Probate of the Will to proceed.
But if a beneficiary is not in agreement with what the will leaves them and is thinking about presenting a Will challenge, they should not sign a waiver under any circumstances. Instead, they would wait for a Citation. The executor, knowing that a waiver is not going to be signed, will go to New York Surrogate’s Court and get a Citation, which is an official court document with a seal, notifying everyone who has an interest in the estate that the will is going to be presented for probate at a given time in a given courtroom.
The executor will have to get the Citation to the beneficiary, usually through a process server. Once the beneficiary receives the Probate Citation, they will have the date and time when the will is presented for probate. At this point in the case, this “return date” of the Citation is essentially the deadline. They will have to appear or have their New York estate attorney appear for them at the date, time and courtroom of the Citation. If they do not appear, they have missed the deadline and the will is going to proceed to probate unopposed.
That first return date of the Citation is the most important court date in the case. This is when the Court will know whether or not there are objections to the will, whether to just admit the will to probate or to assign a court attorney to the estate and put it on the litigation track. If no one shows up at the return date of the Citation, the Will contest is essentially lost.
The return date of the Citation is the deadline to contest the will, is the statute of limitations, to contest a Will, virtually. The time limit to contest a will is: you have to appear at the Citation hearing, or all can be lost.
If you have a return date of a Citation coming up in any New York court and are looking for a New York City estate attorney to show up, declare your possible intention to contest the will and get the process moving, you call Albert Goodwin, Esq. at (212) 233-1233.